How to Relieve Stress by Breathing

How to Relieve Stress by Breathing

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Here is a stress reduction technique that will take your breath away, literally. If you can breathe, you can control your stress. Check out these proven methods that will work for you today.


Breathing exercises provide a convenient and immediate way to relieve stress. It is a great way to reverse a negative response to a high-pressure event. You can learn how to relieve stress by breathing when you start to recognize your triggers. relieve stress by breathing

My stressful times are primarily centered around work events. Major client presentations trigger the most stress for me, followed by workplace conflict and employee management.

Being mindful of my stress and anticipating these moments allow me to reduce my feelings of anxiety by proactively engaging in mindful breathing.

And here is proof!

Before you read any further, try this little experiment.

  • With your eyes closed, take a deep breath through your nose and fill your lungs and belly completely.
  • Hold your breath and slowly count to five before exhaling.
  • Now through your mouth, slowly exhale your breath to the count of eight.

I bet you feel more relaxed than you did 20 seconds ago. This is my quick “stress relief routine” at the office and it works like a charm for me.

But there are many types of breathing exercises that relieve stress. When I have more time, I engage in deeper, longer lasting sessions. Two or three minutes is all a person needs, but sometimes I will do them for up to fifteen minutes.

And I definitely feel a difference on the other side. I’m more relaxed and grounded, which makes managing stress much easier.

Here are five breathing exercises to manage stress for you to try.

1. Simple Deep Breathing

If you are truly stressed, sometimes it is hard to fill your lungs AND tummy with air. By filling your whole torso with a single large breath, it gives you the ability to have a deeper connection to your breathing.

Short shallow breaths that only fill your lungs can make you feel more anxious and have a negative impact on your energy. This technique teaches you to take bigger breaths and completely fill your lungs and tummy.

And it goes like this;

  1. Make sure you get comfortable either lying on your back with a pillow supporting both your head and knees. Or, if you’d rather, sit straight up in a comfortable chair
  2. Draw a slow large breath in through your nose, filling both your lungs and belly.
  3. Pause for a count of five (or whatever is comfortable for you).
  4. Slowly push your breath out through your mouth to a count of eight, completely emptying all of the air.
  5. Put one hand on your chest and the other on your stomach.
  6. As you inhale, feel your lungs fill and your belly rise.
  7. As you exhale, notice the slow movement from your tummy as it empties itself of breath.
  8. Do this repeatedly ten times feeling the air as it enters and leaves your lungs and belly.
  9. Alternatively, you can set a timer for as long as you want (example 15 minutes) and completely immerse yourself in this exercise without counting.

2. Breathing for Stress Relief

Once you have mastered the simple breathing exercise above, you can begin to incorporate simple thoughts to help you focus specifically on things you want to improve. In this case, we want to focus on stress relief.

Make sure you have taken a couple minutes to master the breathing technique above before jumping into this one.

  1. Get comfortable and close your eyes.
  2. Follow the simple breathing technique above.
  3. As you breathe in, picture the air filling your body is full of calm and joy. Feel it fill not only your lungs and belly, but your whole body from head to toe.
  4. As you breathe out, picture the air leaving is filled with stress and tension. Add substance to it for a better visual (I sometimes add color or smoke).
  5. As you breathe in, associate a word with the “good” you are inhaling. Examples could be love, peace, calm, joy or whatever means the most to you in the moment. Feel it fill your body.
  6. As you exhale, get rid of the things you want to be cleared of the most. Examples could be stress, fear, tension and anger. See it leave your body in your mind’s eye.
  7. Have a timer set for 10 to 20 minutes and enjoy this stress relieving breathing exercise.

3. Progressive Muscle Relaxation

In this breathing exercise, you tense a focused muscle group as you inhale, and relax the muscle group as you exhale. I use this periodically if I have a difficult time falling asleep and it works nearly every time.

Here’s how you do it.

  1. 1. Lie comfortably (can be in bed at night time, or a yoga mat).
  2. 2. Follow the simple breathing exercise above.
  3. 3. As you inhale, tense the muscles in your feet.
  4. 4. Hold it for five seconds (or as long as you can).
  5. 5. As you exhale, release the tension in your feet and relax.
  6. 6. Now move up your entire body.
  7. 7. Inhale and tense your lower leg
  8. 8. Exhale and release the tension in your lower leg while allowing yourself to completely relax.
  9. 9. Repeat all the way through your upper legs, tummy, chest, arms, fingers, shoulders and face.

For me, I often don’t make it to my upper body as I use this as a sleep exercise. I will typically doze off somewhere around my belly!

4. The Lion’s Breath

This breathing exercise might sound a bit silly, but it is effective. I have used this a few times when I knew I was alone and could really dive into it.

The premise is to basically imagine you’re a lion and as you exhale, you let all of your breath out of your wide-open mouth (think of a lion when they roar).

Here’s how you do it.

  1. Get comfortable sitting upright.
  2. Inhale through your nose and completely fill your body with air.
  3. When you are completely full of air, calmly open your mouth wide and exhale while making a “sigh” or “ahhh” sound.
  4. Set your timer and repeat for ten minutes.

5. Inflating the Balloon

If the lion’s breath was a bit of a stretch for you, this breathing exercise is easier to perform and perhaps won’t feel as self-conscious.

This leverages the simple breathing exercise described at the beginning of this article.

  1. Find a comfortable position and close your eyes.
  2. Draw a slow large breath in through your nose, filling your belly.
  3. Picture a balloon in your abdomen and the air you are inhaling is filling that balloon.
  4. As you calmly exhale, picture the air as simply escaping the balloon.
  5. Do this repeatedly, watching the air enter and exit the balloon.
  6. Set a timer for your desired length of this exercise.

The advantage of this breathing method is to get you breathing from your diaphragm. This helps you take deeper breaths (rather than the shallow breathing associated with our lungs) and is a great path toward stress relief.

When to Use Breathing Exercises for Stress Relief

Mindful breathing and stress relief go hand and hand. Breathing is a stress management tactic that works easily and can be done by anyone in any situation. Breathing exercises are an extremely popular method for stress relief because;

  • They work fast.
  • They can be done anywhere.
  • They take just minutes to learn.
  • They don’t cost a thing.
  • They help you effectively stay calm and centered.
  • They reverse negative stress responses and help avoid the ongoing issues with anxiety.

Breathing exercises can be done in any situation to relieve stress. A few examples include;

  • You’re simply feeling overwhelmed and need an outlet to calm down fast.
  • You want to think more clearly.
  • Your shoulders or back feel tense and you need to relax them.
  • You feel things are moving too fast and you need to change their pace.
  • You’re engaged in a form of conflict and need to better ground yourself.
  • You simply want to relax and clear your mind.

Breathing is one method in your toolkit for managing stress. When combined with other stress relief methods it becomes a key pillar in maintaining a balanced mental state. Meditation, exercise and a proper diet all play a key role in managing stress.

But breathing, if practiced regularly, will give you the headspace to better manage stressful situations that you will encounter nearly every day of your life.

You Can Manage your Stress

Stress can be managed and it’s often not difficult. Life is too short to do anything else.

If you ever need a hand or have any questions, feel free to leave them below and I will be more than happy to help you out. And if you have any stress relief tips that work for you, drop me a line and we can share it with our readers who just might be going through the same things we are!

You can do this. Just take a breath.

All the best,

Daniel James

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