We all get stressed sometimes. Stress is a completely natural part of life, whether at work, at home, or in our personal relationships. While a certain amount of stress can be short-lived and quickly overcome, too much stress can negatively affect our physical and mental health.
It is essential that we find simple yet effective ways to manage ourselves in those stressful moments. Having a go-to method to de-stress can make all the difference in our overall wellbeing and wellness. So how can we reduce stress to help our mental health? One way is through breathing exercises.
Breathing exercises are a proven way to reduce stress. When we are stressed, our breathing becomes shallow and rapid, which can lead to feelings of anxiety and panic. By taking some time to focus on our breath, we can begin to calm the nervous system and bring our body back into balance.
How Does Deep Breathing Help Stress Levels?
As we have just mentioned, during times of stress, our breathing becomes shallow and faster. This is due to the sympathetic nervous system (SNS) kicking in, often referred to as the 'fight or flight' response. The SNS is designed to help us in times of danger by preparing the body for action. It does this by releasing adrenaline and other stress hormones, which increase heart rate and blood pressure.
In small doses, this response can be helpful. It can give us the boost of energy and focus we need to get through a challenging situation. When we are constantly under stress, it can negatively impact our health. Over time, chronic stress can lead to high blood pressure, heart disease, and other wellness problems.
Deep breathing is one of the easiest and most time-efficient ways to activate the parasympathetic nervous system (PNS), which is known as the 'rest and digest' response. PNS is the complete opposite to fight or flight and helps to promote relaxation, calmness and wellbeing.
When we take deep, slow breaths, it signals to the brain that everything is okay and there is no danger. PNS is then triggered to respond by slowing the heart rate and decreasing blood pressure. As a result, we feel more relaxed. Breathing exercises can be done anywhere, and whenever required. They are a simple yet effective way to reduce stress and help our mental health.
What Are the Health Benefits of Doing Breathing Exercises?
Aside from promoting relaxation, steadying your heart rate and stabilising blood pressure, deep breathing has a number of other health benefits, including:
- Increases oxygen flow to the brain
- Can help relieve pain
- Increased energy
- Boosts immune system
How to Do Breathing Exercises
Now that we know all of the wonderful benefits that come with doing breathing exercises, let's take a look at how to do them at home. First of all, you want to ensure the area you are in is comfortable and quiet. You could even play some peaceful music in the background to create a calm and chilled environment.
There are a couple different types of breathing exercises, so let's take a look at some of them below.
This breathing exercise is the most common and is a brilliant starting point. It is also referred to as 'diaphragmatic breathing' as it involves using the diaphragm muscle to control the breath.
- Find a nice, comfortable area to sit or lie down.
- Put your hand on your stomach and the other on your chest
- Breathe in through your nose and allow your stomach to expand.
- Concentrate on how your hand rises with each breath.
- Then exhale slowly through your mouth.
- Repeat this process for 5-10 minutes.
We can also do abdominal breathing while away from home if the situation arises. Practising the technique at home makes it much easier to focus if you find yourself in a stressful situation while out and about. Just modify it slightly to fit your situation and comfort levels.
This breathing exercise is similar to abdominal breathing; however, it involves focusing on the breath itself while adding images or words. The breath focus exercise can help to clear your mind, promote wellness and bring your attention back to the present moment.
- Find a comfortable place to sit or lie down.
- Change from deep to normal breaths and back again.
- Concentrate on how the different breaths feel.
- Begin deep breathing, and try placing your hand on your stomach to feel the movement.
- Now that you're familiar with your breathing pattern, imagine adding in words or images to focus on with each breath. For example: Inhale: 'I am.' Exhale: 'relaxed' Inhale: 'I am.' Exhale: 'calm'.
- Repeat this breathing exercise for 5-10 minutes, focusing on different words or images with each breath.
This yoga-based breathing exercise is fantastic for anxiety and stress relief. It involves both the abdominal and chest muscles, promoting relaxation while also helping to improve digestion.
- Begin by sitting in a comfortable position.
- Place your hands wherever is comfortable, for example, on your knees.
- While keeping your eyes open, breathe in through your nose and open your mouth wide.
- Exhale through your mouth and make a 'ha' noise as you do so.
- Repeat 2 to 3 times.
Final Thoughts on Breathing Exercises
Breathing exercises are a fantastic way to promote relaxation, reduce stress and improve overall health. So, choose your favourite technique and practise it! Before long, you'll have an excellent coping method to manage your stress levels, ultimately aiding in your mental health and wellbeing.
For something a little more, why not try adding in some aromatherapy to your breathing exercises? Aromatherapy is a fantastic aid for many things, including stress relief. You can add a couple of drops of your favourite essential oil to a diffuser or inhale from the bottle as you practise your breathing exercises. If this sounds perfect for you, be sure to check out our range of essential oils. Choose from one of our many expertly crafted blends and make a start on putting your wellness first.