This is the second blog post in our Better Breathing series. Your breathing is the link between a healthier body and mind. That’s why each month, we’re focusing on tips for improving the effectiveness of each breath you take.
Feeling especially stressed these days? You’re not alone. Three out of four people feel the same way, statistics show.
But, handle your stress effectively and it could mean the difference between you living comfortably and taking a trip to the doctor. It’s believed that stress causes fatigue, headaches, upset stomach, and irritability, and it may lead to something worse like high blood pressure and heart disease.
Luckily, with a few minutes each day you can avoid the doctor and a lifetime of discomfort.
Let’s look at several easy methods you can try in the comfort of your home to breathe and relax.
First, Examine Your Breathing
Stress is a funny thing in that it’s really one of the core animal instincts we have as humans. It’s a fight-or-flight response that animals in the wild feel while running from predatory animals. Sadly, it typically surfaces for us when paying bills, driving to work, or taking a test.
When you’re stressed it’s a natural response to hyperventilate – you take shallow, rapid breaths that come from the top of your chest. Are you doing this right now? You might be amazed how often you are.
This stressed out condition may lead to anxious feelings and reduced energy-supporting oxygen flow.
NOTE: Keep in mind that shortness of breath may be a symptom of something greater than stress. Please see your physician to discuss your options, including oxygen therapy, if you are experiencing shortness of breath regularly.
Now, Learn to Breathe Better
Most professionals recommend breathing exercises for helping to fight stress. It makes sense! When you condition yourself to breathe calmly, your body will gravitate toward stress-free responses. This leads to improved physical health and mental well-being.
That’s why you should train your body to breath better using the “Calming Breath” method. Try these steps:
- Straighten your posture, whether you’re sitting upright or standing.
- Begin with a long, slow breath through your nose, first filling your lower lungs, then your upper lungs. Place a hand on your belly to feel it expand.
- Hold your breath to the count of three.
- Exhale slowly through your mouth, making sure you relax your body, especially your face, neck, shoulders, and torso.
By the way, this is a common breathing technique used by runners to increase their performance!
Try this method for 5 minutes a day and you’ll soon find yourself doing it unintentionally, and hopefully feeling the stress release.
Three More Ways to Breathe
Once you’ve gotten comfortable with the calming breath relaxation exercise, you may want to try some other relaxation breathing techniques that will improve your ability to manage and eliminate stress.
These three advanced techniques, recommended by WebMD, will help you breathe and relax.
Perform this exercise either sitting or lying down.
- Start with one hand on your belly and the other on your chest.
- Take a deep, slow breath from your belly, and silently count to 4 as you breathe in.
- Hold your breath and silently count from 1 to 7.
- Breathe out completely as you silently count from 1 to 8. Try to get all the air out of your lungs by the time you reach 8.
- Repeat 3-7 times, or until you feel calm.
You can do this relaxation technique in any position, but while you are learning it’s best to lie on your back with your knees bent.
- Put your left hand on your belly and your right hand on your chest. Notice how your hands move as you breathe in and out.
- Practice filling your lower lungs by breathing so that your belly hand goes up when you inhale and your chest hand remains still. Always breathe in through your nose and breathe out through your mouth. Repeat 8-10 times.
- Now add the second step: Inhale first into your lower lungs as before, and then continue inhaling into your upper chest. Breathe slowly and regularly. As you do so, your right hand will rise and your left hand will fall a little as your belly falls.
- As you exhale slowly through your mouth, make a quiet, whooshing sound as your hands fall. Feel the tension leaving your body as you become more and more relaxed.
- Practice breathing in and out in this way for 3-5 minutes. Notice that the movement of your belly and chest rises and falls like the motion of rolling waves.
Caution: Some people get dizzy the first few times they try roll breathing. If you begin to breathe too fast or feel lightheaded, slow your breathing. Get up slowly.
Try this exercise when you first get up in the morning.
- From a standing position, bend forward from the waist with your knees slightly bent, letting your arms dangle close to the floor.
- As you inhale slowly and deeply, return to a standing position by rolling up slowing, lifting your head last.
- Hold your breath for just a few seconds in this standing position.
- Exhale slowly as you return to the original position, bending forward from the waist.
Stress plays a major factor in your ability to manage your mental and physical wellness. Breathing exercises have proven to help manage stress and when done regularly, can be an important daily activity. Try one of these breathing techniques and see how effectively it can help you stay calm.
Want to learn more about ways to improve your health through relaxation breathing? Our Better Breathing series also includes breathing exercises borrowed from runners and breathing exercises for better sleep.
For more information on using portable oxygen while staying active, please contact us. Enjoy your best health!