This is a very stressful time for everyone. The coronavirus pandemic is affecting various aspects of people’s lives all over the world. I’ve been dealing with stress issues for a long time now, and there is one thing I found to be very helpful – breathing. What probably sounds like the most trivial and minor thing you can do is hugely beneficial. Your breath is a powerful tool to ease stress and make you feel less anxious. Simple breathing exercises can make a huge difference in your life if you make them a part of your routine.
Before we dive into the different exercises, here are a few important tips to remember. First, and maybe most importantly, don’t force it. By forcing yourself to do them, you may even feel more stressed than before. Second, try to set a permanent place and time to do it. It could be once or twice a day in your bed, on your sofa, or wherever you see fit. Breathing exercises usually don’t take longer than a few minutes, but if you have more time at your hand, it can only be beneficial.
The first breathing exercise we’ll visit is deep breathing. Often, people take short and shallow breaths, which can make you feel anxious and waste your energy. With this technique, you’ll be able to take bigger, deeper breaths. Here is how you do it:
- Get comfortable. Place your head and knees underneath a mattress or a pillow.
- Place one hand on your upper chest and the other just beneath your rib cage, allowing you to feel the movement of your belly.
- Slowly inhale through your nose, feeling your belly rise. As you breathe out, again through the nose, feel your belly lower. The hand on your belly should move more than the one that’s on your chest.
- Repeat a few times.
The second method of breathing exercise we’ll expand on is breath focus. This deep breathing technique uses imagery or focus words and phrases. Choose words or images that make you smile or relax and that you can repeat throughout your practice. Each session should take between ten to twenty minutes. Here’s how you do it:
- Sit or lie down in the comfortable place you set.
- Close your eyes, and take a few big, deep breaths as detailed above.
- Begin the practice of breath focus by combining this deep breathing with imagery and a focus word or phrase that will support relaxation (such as peace, let go, or relax.)
- Imagine that the air you inhale brings waves of peace and calm throughout your body. Say in your mind, “Inhaling peace and calm.”
- Then, imagine that the air you exhale washes away tension and anxiety. Mentally say, “Exhaling tension and anxiety.”
- As mentioned, do the session for 10-20 minutes.
The third and final method I’m going to present to you is equal breathing. In this exercise, you’ll match the length of your inhales and exhales. Doing that can help bring you balance and equanimity. You should find a breath length that is not too easy, difficult, or fast. Usually, this is between 3 and 5 counts. Here’s how you to it:
- As with every breathing exercise, go to the comfortable place you set for yourself.
- Breathe in through your nose. As you do it, count to between three to five, to your choosing.
- Breathe out through your nose to the count you chose.
- You can add a slight pause or breath retention after each inhale and exhale if you feel comfortable. (Normal breathing involves a natural pause.)
- Repeat for at least five minutes.
Of course, there are many more breathing exercises out there for you to explore. These are just a few that I found personally to be very helpful throughout my struggle with stress. Dedicate time to practice these techniques throughout your day or week. Take the time to experiment with different types of breathing techniques. Hopefully, better, less stressful days are upon us.