Stress, Anxiety and Breathing

By: Dr. Christine Cho ND

We often forget that our breath is something we can control.  In stressful situations, many of us respond by contracting our muscles leading to headaches and neck pain, decreasing the depth of our breaths, and increasing blood pressure and heart rate.   By changing breath rate and the depth of our breaths, we can actually change our physiology and therefore the way we feel.   Deeper and slower breathing allows our heart rate and blood pressure to slow down and for our muscles to relax.  This is part of the reason why exercise (even if it’s not yoga) can be such a great stress reliever.

Feeling stressed?  Try doing some daily deep breathing exercises (see below) to help settle the nerves.  Do as many cycles as you feel necessary, but you will see that this takes literally a minute (or less) of your day!  You can also try setting a daily alarm clock to remind you to take a few breaths amidst your busy day.

Relaxing Breath Exercise

  1. Plant both feet on the ground while sitting comfortably on a chair (or lie down comfortably), with your eyes closed or focused on the tip of your nose.
  2. Place both hands on your belly.
  3. Inhale through the nose for a count of 4, so that you can feel your belly rise (not your chest).
  4. Hold for a count of 4; then exhale for a count of 4 through your mouth.
  5. Repeat steps 3 and 4 for at least 4 cycles.

 After practicing this exercise in counts of 4 consistently for a couple weeks, start to increase the counts of your inhalation and exhalation until you are up to 8 counts.

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