This time of year is often very stressful, particularly with the added burden of COVID-19. I wanted to share some of my favorite breathing exercises to help with stress and anxiety. I hope some of these exercises are helpful!
1) 4-7-8 Breathing
This exercise helps to regulate levels of the stress hormone, cortisol, and is great for reducing anxiety, managing emotions, and helping with sleep. Here are the steps:
• Start by finding a comfortable place to sit with limited distractions. You can close your eyes or focus on a particular point.
• Breathe in through your nose while counting to 4
• Hold your breath while counting to 7
• Exhale through your mouth while counting to 8
You can repeat these steps as many times as you would like at a pace that feels good for you.
2) Diaphragmatic Breathing/Belly Breathing
Diaphragmatic or Belly Breathing helps to strengthen your diaphragm and can have many benefits including reducing stress and blood pressure. Here are the steps:
• Lie on your back with your knees slightly bent
• Place one hand on your upper chest and one hand below your rib cage
• Slowly inhale through your nose and feel your stomach pressing against your hand
• Exhale through pursed lips and tighten your abdominal muscles. Notice your stomach falling down away from your hand
It is recommended to practice this exercise 3-4 times per day for 5-10 minutes.
3) Progressive Muscle Relaxation
For this breathing exercise you will tense different muscle groups as you breathe in and release your muscles as you breath out. This helps you to relax both physically and mentally. Here are the steps:
• Breath in and tense the first muscle group for 4-10 seconds
• Exhale and release the muscle group
• Relax for 10 to 20 seconds before moving to the next muscle group. Notice the difference in how you feel when your muscles are tense and when they are relaxed
• After you go through each muscle group, count backwards from 5 and bring your focus back
The following link is a video you can use to guide you through the exercise: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ihO02wUzgkc