Stress creeps into our lives in various ways. Practicing different breathing techniques is a simple but effective way to relieve you of stress. There are many techniques you can use, and each offers different benefits to lowering stress, worry, and anxiety. Learning these approaches in therapy with a counselor is the best way to empower yourself with the right tools to defeat stress.
Techniques for Lowering Stress
One popular technique is called Mindful Diaphragmatic Breathing. First, you get yourself into a comfortable position like sitting or lying down, then you close your eyes and start to notice your breath. Before you begin to change it, please pay attention to the depth and pace of your breath. Is your breathing slow or quick? Is it deep or shallow? Are you holding your breath? Becoming aware of your breathing process can help you become more mindful of how your body responds to stress and when you need to actively relax your breathing.
Counted Breathing is another technique that can be helpful. This technique is also known as “box breathing”. Counting your breath is helpful both for pacing your breathing and acts as a form of meditation. It helps with pacing by enabling you to elongate your breath and stretch out your exhales. You do this by using a simple 4-4-4 ratio.
- As you inhale, place your tongue on the roof of your mouth and inhale slowly while counting to 4.
- Then hold your breath for a count of 4 to calm yourself.
- Then slowly exhale while counting to 4.
This technique helps empty your lungs and relax with each breath. You can also set your own pace with this. Play around with whatever ratio feels most beneficial for you. The act of counting while you breathe also helps by keeping your mind focused on your breath and in the present moment. In turn, it is much more effective than unconsciously breathing.
The next technique is called Visualization Breathing. You begin this technique by getting into a relaxed position, closing your eyes, and breathing in through your nose and out through your mouth. As you inhale, imagine as though your abdomen is filling with air like a balloon. As you exhale, picture the air escaping out of the balloon slowly. You can also heighten this technique by imagining the balloon as your favorite color or that, with each breath, you are floating higher into the sky if it helps you relax.
Helpful Breathing Techniques for Relieving Stress
You can also use this same technique to visualize all of the stress leaving your body. When you inhale, imagine all of the stress leaving your limbs and traveling into your chest. When you exhale, imagine the stress leaving your body as you breathe out. You should perform this technique slowly and repeat the process until, after several breaths, you feel the stress begin to dissipate.
Another technique called Alternate Nostril Breathing and is a yogic breath control practice. It has been around for thousands of years and is used as a form of meditative breathing. As you inhale, put on finger covering your right nostril and only breathe in through your left. During the exhale, switch nostrils and only breathe through your right one. With this technique, you can go at whatever pace is most comforting for you.
You don’t have to go it alone
Breathing techniques that reduce stress are one of the most effective ways to calm yourself and feel more relaxed. Your breath is one of the best defenses you have to combat daily stress, irritation, and frustration. Once you begin the use of one or more of these techniques, you will likely start to feel better. You may even notice you start to handle stress and gain a little extra resilience in the process. At the Counseling Center for Growth and Recovery, we incorporate breathing techniques and relaxation methods into our therapeutic approach.