Research suggests that more than two-thirds of young adults between the ages of 18-24 have taken time off work in the past year due to stress. Today, we live in a society where stress is more prevalent than ever, bringing with it dilapidated health which, if not tackled, has the potential to lead to both physical and mental illness, particularly anxiety, insomnia and even depression. Whether it’s an issue in the workplace that has got you down, or you’re having trouble at home, it’s essential to find ways to deal with the daily stresses we are facing. In this article, we explore an array of simple breathing exercises you can use to help combat stress.
From the office to the comfort of your home, our easy to master breathing exercises can be practiced anywhere.
Diaphragmatic Breathing, or Belly Breathing as it’s commonly referred to, is one of the most simple breathing techniques to reduce stress. This type of deep breathing takes less than a minute, so is perfect for practicing any time of the day or night. To start, get comfortable on your yoga mat – you can either sit or lie down on your back – and then place one of your hands on your stomach, resting it just above your belly button. Gently place the other hand on your chest, and get ready to begin. Focusing on your breathing, inhale deeply through your nostrils, allowing the hand on your chest to gently rise and fall as you breathe. Then, using your lips, being to breathe out slowly, as if you are blowing up a balloon. If it helps, you can gently press your hand into your stomach as you release breathe, feeling the sensation of the stomach deflating. You should repeat this up to ten times.
You will notice yourself feeling more relaxed after just a few breathes in and out, but continue for at least 30 seconds for optimum effect. If you are considering practicing controlled breathing regularly, belly breathing is a perfect place to start.
Particular effective for sleep, 4-7-8 Breathing is a simple method that can prove beneficial for helping you drift off; however, it can also be practiced throughout to the day to relieve stress and anxiety. Firstly, find a comfortable position on your yoga mat – once again, you can either sit on your bottom or lie down on your back – and start to breathe in steadily. After about 4 seconds, your lungs should be completely filled with air. Hold for seven seconds, and then begin to quietly release the breath; this step should take around eight seconds for your lungs to be empty. While there is no recommendation for how many times you should repeat the 4-7-8 breathing technique, listen to your body and continue until you feel sufficiently relaxed. A couple of minutes should be plenty. Throughout the process, it’s important to stick to the 4-7-8 breathing pattern; although this may feel alien initially, the more you practice, the easier it will be to establish a rhythm.
Perfect for the workplace, Roll Breathing is an effective breathing exercise that is simple to practice from the comfort of your desk whilst in the office. When trying Roll Breathing for the first time, we suggest that you lay down to make the process as simple as possible; but when you have mastered the technique, you can do it anywhere you see fit. Encouraging you to use your full lung capacity for steadier breathing, Roll Breathing is effective in combating stress and reducing anxiety.
To begin, gently lay your left hand on your stomach, and your right hand on your chest; both hands should feel loose and able to move freely with your body as you breathe in and out. Once you are comfortable, begin to take a deep, slow breath from the bottom of your lungs, using your nose to breathe in, and mouth to breathe out. When you have sufficiently filled your lungs with as much air as possible, hold the breath for a second before exhaling gently. Breathe slowly in and out until you have established a rhythm. Repeat this technique nine times. On the final breath, push air into your lower lungs and, as you exhale, let out a soft ‘whoosh’ sound. When practiced for at least a few minutes, it should be easy to notice the benefits of roll breathing, helping to reduce stress in a noticeable manner as you partake in the exercise.
While the previous breathing exercises we have mentioned are perfect for practicing any time and place, there’s one that is exceptionally useful in helping you feel relaxed and ready to take on the day: Morning Breathing. Best to practice as soon as you wake up, morning breathing helps to relax your muscles after a deep sleeping, helping to engage and prepare your mind for a stressful day at work.
To start, stand tall with your back straight and your knees bent. Slowly bend the upper half of your body over from the waist, until your hands hang loosely just grazing the floor. Once you are relaxed, breathe in steadily as you return to your original standing position, lifting your head up last of all. To complete the exercise, gently exhale as you lower your arms and chest back down to the ground once more. Once you have finished, slowly stand up straight again and give your body a good shake to make sure everything is nice and loose. Practising this exercise just once should be more than sufficient.
Although taking the longest to complete, our fifth and final exercise helps the muscles in your body to relax completely. In addition to being a great way to reduce stress, Deep Muscle Relaxation, combined with Belly Breathing can be a fantastic way to warm down after a workout or intense exercise class.
Firstly, sit comfortably on your yoga mat and close your eyes. Gradually, this exercise will loosen up all your primary muscles. Initially, relax your face and then push your eyebrows together, hold for a few seconds and then release. Next, tilt your head forward until your chin is resting against your chest, performing a deep stretch down the back of your neck. To loosen the upper back and shoulders, perform a couple of shoulder rolls while struggling a few times – then release. While completely all these different exercises, ensure you are Belly Breathing to gain the most benefit. To relax your arms, simply stretch them out in front of you, hold for a couple of seconds and then let them fall gently back down to your sides. Lastly, to relax your legs, extend your calf outwards while pointing your toes; hold and, for the last time, relax.
Taking a couple of minutes each day to partake in mind-full breathing techniques can really help the body to stretch, loosen, and ultimately, relax.