Life gets more stressful every day. It can be a million little things competing for our time or one huge thing we never saw coming. One minute everything is great, and the next minute our whole world is upside down. 

Life isn’t easy.

Of the many techniques to cope with stress, deep breathing is among the best. Besides lowering stress, deep breathing improves blood flow, makes you feel less anxious, and improves sleep.

What Is Deep Breathing?

Deep breathing relaxes your body and nervous system by replacing shallow breathing from your chest area with full, deep breaths from your abdomen area.

Deep breathing works because it reduces the release of stress hormones, which calms and relaxes the body and decreases feelings of anxiety. Deep breathing enhances your overall well-being, too.

Deep breathing can also help with certain conditions such as obesity, Type-2 diabetes, and high blood pressure when practiced regularly. 

People can make rash decisions when feeling angry, anxious, or afraid. But practicing a few minutes of deep breathing can slow you down enough to give you the time you need to think things over and make better decisions in the heat of the moment.

How Deep Breathing Works

Deep breathing floods your bloodstream with oxygen. As soon as the brain detects this rich supply of oxygen, it reduces the concentration of stress hormones. You immediately start to feel calmer and less stressed. 

Deep breathing is easy. Just follow these steps to give it a try: 

  1. Place one hand on your abdomen.
  2. Place your other hand on your chest.
  3. You may either close your eyes or keep them open. 
  4. Take two or three deep cleansing breaths expanding your abdomen to get a feel for it. It’s called diaphragmatic breathing.
  5. Next, take a long, slow breath, filling your lungs fully; feel your abdomen expanding as you breathe.
  6. Then, slowly let out your breath.
  7. As you exhale, feel your abdomen get smaller, but your chest only moving slightly. 
  8. As you breathe in and out, focus on how much calmer you feel.
  9. Repeat 5–7 times.

Benefits of Deep Breathing

Ever notice how you breathe when you feel calm and relaxed? You take long, slow breaths through your nose. But it’s a different story when you are stressed because that’s when the fight or flight response kicks in.

When that happens, your breathing becomes quick and shallow to increase the oxygen supply to your extremities so you can run for your life or fight.

But what happens when you live in a world where you don’t run or fight? An imbalance of oxygen and carbon dioxide is created, which affects health and well-being. Deep breathing to the rescue to restore balance!

Controlled, deep breathing offers these benefits: 

  • It lowers heart rate and blood pressure. 
  • It helps with reducing built-up lactic acid in muscle tissue.
  • Improves the immune system.
  • Boosts physical energy.
  • Reduces stress hormones.
  • Increases feelings of calm and relaxation.

Deep Breathing Tips

After practicing controlled, deep breathing and getting a feeling for it, use these tips to help reverse your stress responses even further and feel calmer.

  • Your first two full exhalations are the secret to going from chest to abdominal breathing.
  • Pushing out all the air from the bottom of your lungs creates a vacuum that will allow you to switch to abdominal breathing on your next inhalation. But pause for a second or two before inhaling slowly.
  • Breath through the nose, if possible, and exhale through your mouth. 
  • When first starting, stick to no more than five deep breaths because more than five breaths tend to make most people feel light-headed. If five breaths are too much, take 2-3 breaths and build up to five. 

The beauty of deep breathing is that it works, and you can do it anywhere! So the next time you’re feeling stressed, anxious, or overwhelmed, give yourself the gift of a two-minute break and enjoy a few controlled, deep breaths. You’ll feel calmer and happier and restore your inner peace. 

Photo by Kelvin Han on Unsplash

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