What is a deep breathing exercise I can do to get rid of stress?

Aila Accad
Aila Accad on behalf of Sigma Nursing
When your body is under stress, breathing becomes shallow. You might even notice that you hold your breath. Taking a deep breath can release tension instantly. Oxygen immediately starts to flow to the cells. Energy is free to move throughout your body again.

As you take a deep breath, take it all the way into every cell of your body. Feel your belly expand. When you let it out, let it out with a sound -- Ahhhhh. Allow your shoulders to drop and feel relaxation move through your body. Smile.

Test this for yourself: Notice how you are breathing when you are in a meeting, confronted with a challenge or nervously anticipating something. Immediately take a deep breath, let it out and notice how you feel again. You will feel not only more relaxed but also more energized. Your brain gets more oxygen to think clearly and energy flows instead of being constricted or stuck.
Deep abdominal (diaphragmatic) breathing brings more oxygen into your blood and muscles, relieving the effects of stress and lowering your heart rate and blood pressure.

Like many adults, you may have "forgotten" the right way to breathe. You pull in air through your chest, instead of through your stomach. When you chest breathe, you become tense, develop muscle fatigue, shortness of breath and may even increase feelings of anxiety.

You can practice deep abdominal breathing throughout the day, while sitting up straight, standing or lying down. Repeat this cycle three or four times, several times a day, to make it a habit:
  • Place your hands on your stomach. This will let you know if you're breathing correctly.
  • Inhale slowly and deeply through your nose, letting your stomach expand as much as possible. Hold for five to 10 seconds.
  • Your chest, rib cage and shoulders should not move at all.
  • Exhale slowly, through pursed lips. Feel your stomach deflate.
  • When you've exhaled fully, begin the cycle again.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.