One, Two, Three Breathing Exercises To Relieve Stress
You might think that breathing is breathing, but there are three different ways we can breathe. Sometimes we get into situations that make us anxious, and many people continue to breathe naturally, but you will see how there are other ways to breathe that are more effective in helping you deal with feeling stressed or anxious.
1. Natural Breathing
The first type of breathing is known as Natural Breathing or abdominal breathing. We should breathe this way throughout the day unless you are physically active. This breathing provides sufficient oxygen intake and controls the exhalation of carbon dioxide.
You can try it now. Gently and slowly inhale a healthy amount of air through your nose, filling your lower lungs. I suggest you count to four as you inhale and then exhale relaxed through your nose to the count of four. You should notice a rhythm to your breathing. You might want to put your hand on your abdomen the first time so you can feel your abdomen rise and fall.
When we breathe, we should always breathe in through our nose and exhale out of our mouth. When you exhale through your mouth keep your lips pursed or pressed slightly.
Just to let you know, in case you come across information about exhaling through your nose too, information is out there. I have read many articles and the jury is still out, but I believe there is still more data on breathing through your lips while pressed slightly.
2. Relax Breathing or 4:7:8
The second type of breathing is called Relax Breathing. Any time you have a situation arise, which makes you feel anxious or stressed your breathing changes. You may have noticed when you are in a stressful situation that instead of breathing slowly from your lower lungs, you begin to breathe rapidly and shallow from your upper lungs. We refer to this as hyperventilation. When you are breathing in a natural healthy way, there is a balance between your oxygen and carbon dioxide. You upset this balance when you hyperventilate by exhaling more than you inhale, so your carbon dioxide gets low. You may notice some or all of the following symptoms.
• shortness of breath
• a lump in the throat
• tingling or numbness in the hands or feet
Relaxed Breathing is also known as diaphragmatic breathing. Relaxed breathing is a natural tranquilizer for our nervous system. When you are relaxed breathing or diaphragmatic breathing, you are indirectly stimulating the vagus nerve. Relaxed breathing is part of a feedback loop that improves vagal tone by stimulating the relaxation response of the parasympathetic nervous system. So, when you take a deep breath, it activates specific neurons that detect your blood pressure is high. The neurons signal the vagus nerve that your blood pressure is becoming too high. Then your vagus nerve responds, which is the calming response or parasympathetic response.
If you take tranquilizing drugs, they will often be less effective over time, but the opposite is true for relax breathing. It gains power with repetition and practice. Practice relaxed breathing at least twice a day. Once you develop this technique by practicing it every day, it will be a very useful tool that you will always have with you. You can use relaxed breathing whenever anything upsetting happens. You can use it when you feel internal tension or stress and also to help you fall asleep.
The Calming Response ( Parasympathetic Response)
- oxygen consumption decreases
- blood pressure decreases
- heart rate slows
- breathing slows
- muscle tension decrease
- begin to feel a sense of ease in your body, calmness in your mind
Let’s try Relax Breathing also known as 4:7:8. Although you can do the exercise in any position, sit with your back straight while learning the exercise. You will be inhaling through your nose and exhaling through your mouth with your lips pursed.
- Close your mouth and inhale quietly through your nose to a mental count of four.
- Hold your breath for a count of seven.
- Exhale completely through your mouth, making a whoosh sound to a count of eight.
- This is one breath. Now inhale again and repeat the cycle three more times for a total of four breaths.
With this breathing technique, you always inhale quietly through your nose and exhale audibly through your mouth with your lips pursed. Exhalation should be twice as long as inhalation. The absolute time you spend on each phase is not important; the ratio of 4:7:8 is important.
3. Breath Counting
The third technique is called Breath Counting. It has two benefits over Relax Breathing. One of the benefits of Breath Counting is you do it over a longer length of time. Another benefit is you will be concentrating on a specific task instead of being able to focus on the thoughts that are making you worry. If you can let time pass without such intense focus on your fearful thoughts, you will have a better chance at controlling those thoughts.
Sit in a comfortable position with the spine straight and head inclined slightly forward. Gently close your eyes and take a few deep breaths. Then let the breath come naturally without trying to influence it. Ideally it will be quiet and slow, but depth and rhythm may vary.
- To begin the exercise, count “one” to yourself as you exhale.
- The next time you exhale, count “two,” and so on up to “five.”
- Then begin a new cycle, counting “one” on the next exhalation.
Never count higher than “five,” and count only when you exhale. You will know you are not paying close attention when you find yourself up to “eight” or “ten”. Try to practice for ten minutes and it can be used as a form of mediation.
Three Ways to Breathe
Let’s review the three ways to breathe.
Gently and slowly inhale a healthy amount of air through your nose, filling your lower lungs. I suggest you count to four as you inhale and then exhale relaxed through your mouth with your lips pursed to the count of four. You should notice a rhythm to your breathing.
Relaxed- 4:7:8 Breathing
Close your mouth and inhale quietly through your nose to a mental count of four. Hold your breath for a count of seven. Now exhale completely through your mouth, making a whoosh sound to a count of eight. Remember to keep your lips together
This is one breath. Now inhale again and repeat the cycle three more times for a total of four breaths.
Breath Counting- Breathing
To begin the exercise, count “one” to yourself as you exhale. The next time you exhale, count “two,” and so on up to “five.” Then begin a new cycle, counting “one” on the next exhalation. Remember do not count higher than five. Each time your exhale say, relax silently.
Until next time, Be Happy and Healthy!