Life can be stressful and even overwhelming at times. Americans’ health often suffers due to stress at work and home and the internal pressure we put on ourselves. High stress levels may be causing high blood pressure and anxiety attacks and preventing you from functioning at your best. Here are several breathing exercises that can reduce your stress level so that even your worst day at the office won’t seem so bad.
1. Abdominal Breathing for Stress Relief
Best used for quick stress relief before a big meeting or an exam at school, abdominal breathing is the most common form of stress relief. Take in deep breaths through the nose. Resting one hand on your chest and the other on your stomach is the best way to ensure that the diaphragm inflates with enough air to create a stretch in the lungs. The goal is to take six to 10 slow, deep breaths per minute for 10 minutes. This technique will immediately decrease your heart rate and eliminate anxiety. Practicing abdominal breathing daily for several months has been linked to long-term health benefits and can be particularly helpful for those who are stressed out often.
2. Alternative Nostril Breathing for Energy
If you’re in desperate need of an energy boost, this breathing exercise is for you. Sitting with your back straight, ideally in a meditative pose, pinch your nose with your thumb and pointer finger. Relieve the right side with your thumb and inhale through the right nostril. At the peak of your breath, switch your fingers so that your thumb closes off your right nostril and your pointer finger relieves the left, so you can exhale from the left nostril. Repeat this by inhaling through the left nostril and exhaling out of the right. Alternative nostril breathing has been known to give people an energy boost similar to a cup of coffee and is not recommended to be done before bed. Something as simple as this can be done in the office during those mid-afternoon hours when your mind seems to zone out.
3. Equal Breathing for a Better Sleep
Ever lie in bed for hours, waiting for sleep to overcome your body? This exercise is ideal for those who can’t seem to shut down at night. Start by inhaling slowly through the nose for a count of four and then exhaling for a count of four. All breathing should be done through the nose for an equal number of seconds—this is an important factor of this breathing exercise. Once you’ve gotten this practice down, you can try to increase the number of seconds to six or eight. This exercise is designed to calm the nervous system, increase focus, and decrease stress. Similar to counting sheep, with your brain focused on counting breaths, your mind will become distracted from racing thoughts and allow you to fall asleep.