Exhale the Tension

A woman does breathing exercises while sitting in front of her laptop computer.Stress is how the brain and body respond to any demand. According to a study conducted by the American Psychological Association in 2015, most adults reported that stress had a negative impact on their mental and physical health. Additionally, most reported that they didn’t feel they were doing enough to manage their stress level. Causes of stress can be dealt with differently, but there are small ways you can start to combat everyday stressors. Stress may cause you to take small, shallow breaths. Taking a few minutes to take slow, steady and easy breaths helps to reduce blood pressure, heart rate and levels of stress hormones. Here are a few breathing exercises that may work the next time you’re feeling stressed:

  • Coherent breathing: The goal with this technique is to breathe at a rate of five breaths per minute. This means that you’ll inhale and exhale to the count of six. Start by sitting upright or lying down in a comfortable place. Put your hands on your abdomen and slowly breathe in. Expand your stomach to the count of five and pause. Slowly breathe out to the count of six. If you haven’t practiced breathing exercises before, it might help to start at inhaling and exhaling to the count of three and work your way up. Then, increase the amount of time that you use this technique to 10-20 minutes per day.
  • Rock and roll breathing: This might best be performed in the heat of the most stressful time of the day. Sit up straight on the floor or on the edge of a chair. With your hands on your abdomen, inhale and expand your stomach. On the exhale, breathe out and curl forward. When all the breath is out, lean back to sit up straight and begin again. Repeat 20 times.
  • Energizing “Ha” breath: Stress can cause fatigue, which may impact our ability to complete regular tasks. Some quick breathing techniques may help wake up the mind and body. Stand up tall with your elbows bent and palms facing up. On the inhale, draw your elbows back behind you. When you exhale, quickly let the breath go and thrust your palms forward and turn them to face the floor. Once you get comfortable with the motion, let out a “Ha” when exhaling. Repeat this technique 10-15 times.

If you’re experiencing increasing levels of stress that may be affecting your physical and mental health, contact your primary care physician. If you don’t have a primary care physician, call 1-800-BayCare (1-800-229-2273).