The Top 5 Breathing Exercises To Reduce Anxiety + Stress

I include myself in the vast amount of human-beings who experience symptoms of anxiety or stress often.

While some individuals are more prone to it than others, it is the current nature of our fast-paced society to feel anxious and overwhelmed by our daily lives.

The act of focusing on your breath allows you to slow down and take a moment for yourself.

Sometimes it’s unbelievable how many of us forget to…JUST BREATHE.

You don’t need to shell out a bunch of money on a massage or spa treatment for an instant mental detox.

You can do these breathing exercises anywhere, anytime.

I actually use them routinely, and no one EVER notices.

By focusing on your breath, you begin to gather mentally that you are a living, breathing soul.

You have power. You have purpose. YOU ARE ALIVE. You can tackle anything that this life throws at you.

Healthy deep breathing allows you to re-center, and go about your day in a heightened state.

While simple, these exercises do require some practice to perfect. The only way to master them is to do them regularly, until it becomes more natural. When you fine-tune your breathing exercises you’ll be able to shut out all the stressful distractions around you and focus on yourself.

While you can practice these exercises anywhere you wish, it is recommended that you start out lying down on a flat surface, or sitting upright in a comfortable chair with minimal distractions.

When you become a pro at these, there’s no place you can’t do them!

How It Works

Now, let’s get to the nitty-gritty of how this affects you biologically.

Using simple breathing exercises is a fool-proof way to not only reduce anxiety and stress, but has been proven to have a number of additional benefits.

These include:

  • Muscle relaxation
  • Heightened mental acuity
  • Lowered blood pressure
  • Release of endorphins
  • Improved oxygen delivery

Since learning to breathe properly, I’ve noticed the benefits trickle into all areas of my life.

I’m able to focus more on tasks at hand, and relax during stressful situations more easily.

It’s amazing how something SO simple has such a positive effect on our bodies.

The Top 5 Breathing Exercises to Reduce Anxiety + Stress

Box Breathing

This type of breathing is focused on taking slow, deep breaths in 4-second intervals and has also been referred to as “four-square breathing”.

Steps

  1. When ready, very slowly, exhale all of your breath.
  2. Then, inhale deeply to the count of four, very slowly!
  3. Hold your breath for four, slow seconds.
  4. Exhale through your mouth for four, slow seconds.
  5. Hold your breath for four, slow seconds.
  6. Repeat this cycle!

Why I Love It

Everyone will have their preferences for which breathing exercises they prefer. This one, at first, was one of my LEAST favorites, but now I absolutely love it. I initially needed practice feeling comfortable breathing that slowly (which indicates that I needed this exercise more than ever). After some practice, it now makes me feel like all that bottled up anxiety and stress is slowly being released.

Alternate Nostril Breathing

This breathing, used mainly in yoga practices, is praised for its ability to purify the bodies’ airway channels, regulate one’s temperature, and balance both hemispheres of the brain.

Steps

  1. Use your right thumb to close your right nostril.
  2. Inhale slowly through your left nostril.
  3. Use your pinky to close your left nostril.
  4. Remove your thumb, and exhale slowly from your right nostril.
  5. Repeat this cycle!

Why I Love It

Okay, so this one looks a little weird and seems kinda silly. But it feels SO good once you get into a rhythm. In a crazy way, it really does allow you to feel the release of tension from both sides of your body individually. Do this one for a solid 5-minutes, and you’ll feel relaxed for a good part of your day.

4-7-8 Breathing

This practice has been used by many to help reset their minds when feeling tense or anxious. It has also been used as a tool for people to reflect before reacting negatively in stressful situations (stress eating, arguing, etc.).

Steps

  1. Deeply exhale all of your breath.
  2. Close your mouth and inhale deeply to the count of 4 seconds.
  3. Hold your breath for 7 seconds.
  4. Deeply exhale all of your breath to the count of 8 seconds.
  5. Repeat this cycle!

Why I Love It

You’ll notice this is quite similar to Box Breathing; however, I still love this exercise due to the variable amount of time required for each step. It allows me to focus on the order of seconds, which further prevents me from being distracted by a stressful situation.

Diaphragmatic Breathing

Like the name implies, this is an easy way for you to practice breathing directly from your diaphragm. This is a technique that requires practice to perfect. The overall effects are worth it, however, as it can greatly improve lung capacity and physical performance. It is recommended that you start this exercise lying on a flat surface, then when you gain more experience feel free to try this in a seated position.

Steps

  1. Place one hand on the upper chest and your second hand just below your rib-cage. This is optimal hand placement for you to feel the movement of your diaphragm.
  2. Breathe in slowly through your nose so that your stomach expands against your hand. Keep the hand on your chest as still as possible.
  3. Tighten those stomach muscles, then gently press your hands inward as your exhale through pursed lips. Once again, keep your hand on your chest as still as possible!
  4. Repeat this cycle!

Why I Love It

This is one that I still have yet to perfect. Initially, when you try this for the first time, it will likely feel a bit uncomfortable or unnatural. Rather than a quick relaxation technique, I would consider this more of a workout for your diaphragm. If you can get this down, there are so many beneficial effects to your body, so it’s definitely worth practicing!

Body Scan Breathing

I saved my favorite for last, this being the technique I use most often! After doing this exercise I instantly have more awareness of my body and feel more relaxed physically. I routinely use this before sleeping, and it has helped immensely with anxiety, insomnia, and pre-sleep stress.

Steps

  1. Start by closing your eyes.
  2. While focusing on your breath, become aware of the contact and pressure your body has with your seat or floor. This mindset of feeling rooted to the surface you’re on can help you breathe more deeply, and allow you to feel more relaxed.
  3. After setting your breath, slowly start becoming aware of each area of your body, starting from your toes. Scan each area, and investigate the feelings you have there. Whether its relaxation, pain, pressure, or nothing at all, don’t judge what you feel. Just acknowledge it!

Why I Love It

While you can use these steps to start this practice, ultimately this is one that greatly helps to have a guided meditation tool. I’m able to do body scans on my own daily, but I initially started with (and still use!) guided meditation resources to help me. I love this practice as it allows me to target whichever areas of my body are feeling the most stress, and to individually release the tension from each of them!

Not all of these breathing exercises might be for you, and that’s okay!

Find your favorite and keep that in your arsenal. Keep it handy for whenever you need it.

I promise you, if you think that you can get by without breathing exercises, or you think they’re “extreme”, NONE OF US are above self-care

It can really be helpful when we feel mentally out of wack to have simple techniques to re-find our center!

Also, don’t wait to use these till you feel on edge. Start practicing now!

These don’t have to be tied to a negative experience, but can be used daily to promote relaxation and better health.

As I briefly mentioned, while these steps can help you get started, you will ultimately need a tool to help guide you as a beginner.

As many of you probably know, I’m a huge fan of the CALM APP as it’s the resource I started with.

If you really want to gain a further understanding of deep breathing and meditation, I highly, HIGHLY recommend checking out their book as well.

You can purchase it HERE!

P.S. I would love to hear from you!

If there’s anything in this post that resonated with you, or anything you’d like me to touch on further, don’t hesitate to let me know! đŸ™‚

You can reach me by commenting beneath this post or by entering your email in the box below (and receiving your free gift)!

Till next time!

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Hey there! I’m Kat!

I created Living in Slack Tide as a space for like-minded individuals to connect and learn ways they can reach their health, fitness, and wellness goals.

If there’s a particular topic that you would like for me to cover, please shoot me an email at kat@livinginslacktide.com.

I can’t wait to meet the healthiest, happiest version of YOU! 

Receive "10 Habits That Establish a Healthy Morning Routine" Guide for FREE!

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