Reducing Stress With Deep-Belly Breathing
Is it possible to reduce stress in 3-5 minutes?
Absolutely. Let me explain why. When you are experiencing anxiety, your body is in a fight- flight-freeze stress response. You can activate this stress response by remembering a difficult situation, looking at an overwhelming to do list, watching a scary movie or worrying about “what ifs”.
But do you know you can also activate your body’s anxiety relief/relaxation response? A great tool to calm your mind and body is deep-belly breathing. Follow the instructions below to learn how to correctly use this simple, quick technique.
Instructions For Deep-Belly Breathing
- Place your hands on your stomach
- Breathe in and expand your stomach allowing your chest to rise last
- Hold for a couple of seconds
- Breathe out completely emptying your lungs (this allows you to breathe deeper during your next inhalation)
- Repeat for several rounds.
Focus on your breath as you breathe in and out. Notice how your breath feels cooler when breathing in and warmer when breathing out. Focusing on your breath provides the added benefit of returning to the “here and now” allowing your mind to take a break from stressful thoughts.
Why It Works
Shallow breathing is a primal sign of danger and sends an alarm signal to your brain, thus triggering the anxiety response. This anxiety response is further increased as your brain and body are being deprived of oxygen due to shallow breathing. This can cause you to panic further as the problem-solving capacity of your brain is blocked due to the lack of oxygen.
A Few Suggestions
Some women say deep breathing feels uncomfortable at first. That is because, unless you are already doing deep breathing or practicing yoga, you most likely are unaccustomed to breathing deeply.
- Practice taking a breath when you are calm vs. when you are stressed or anxious.
- Remember to breathe with your belly extending slightly first then allow your upper chest to rise last.
- Once you can take a deep breath, practice, practice, practice as this activates behavioral reinforcement making it easier when you need it most in times of anxiety.
Behavioral reinforcement means success reinforces success. In other words, each time you are successful, you increase your ability to be successful in the future because you made the behavior stronger. Your body is now conditioned to relax further when breathing deeply because of your past success.
Practice also rewires your brain for success creating and deepening a new neuro-pathway making it easier and easier to create the relaxation response when breathing. After a few tries you should be well on your way to reducing stress through this easy yet effective technique!