How to Manage Stress and Anxiety with Deep Breathing
Have you found yourself experiencing high levels of stress? Feeling more anxious or overwhelmed? Deep breathing is an essential coping skill in managing difficult emotions. This strategy may be used in moments of high levels of stress and anxiety and incorporated into your daily routine to maintain emotional well being. While you take countless breaths throughout the day, the practice of deep breathing allows us to refocus your attention to the present and relieve both emotional and physical effects of increased stress and anxiety.
Benefits of Deep Breathing
In times of high levels of stress and anxiety, your “fight or flight” response is triggered. This response is initially activated to protect yourself from a perceived danger or threat. At times, when you are experiencing stress and anxiety the threat may not be imminent and/or something you are able to immediately or physically respond to. When you are in a state of “fight or flight” it is common to experience increased heart rate, shaking, muscle tension, and shallow breathing. Deep breathing can be used to reduce these effects. There are multiple additional physical and mental health benefits to the practice of deep breathing, including:
- Increased relaxation
- Increased awareness of the present moment
- Decreased muscle tension
- Decreased blood pressure
- Improved ability to manage effects of anxiety, depression, and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder
Follow this link for additional information regarding the benefits of deep breathing: Take a Deep Breath
5 Steps to Practice Deep Breathing
A key component of deep breathing is to maintain your focus on the timing and placement of your breath. Deep breathing, commonly referred to as diaphragmatic breathing, encourages you to focus your breath in your stomach/diaphragm area. It is common in times of stress and anxiety to experience shallow breathing from your chest area. You may notice yourself breathing in this manner throughout the day. The intentional transfer of your breath from your chest to your diaphragm allows for deeper breathing and increased relaxation. The following are steps to practice deep breathing effectively:
- Find a comfortable setting and/or position that will allow you to focus on your breath
- Place your hand on your diaphragm/stomach area
- Breath in through your nose for a count of 4, focusing you breath in the stomach area
- Hold your breath for a count of 4
- Breath out through your mouth for a count of 6
Helpful Hints for Deep Breathing
- If you find yourself having trouble exhaling at a slow pace you can purse your lips as you breath out, similar to when you are blowing up a balloon or if you were to breath out through straw
- The practice of deep breathing may initially feel difficult, especially attempting to refocus your attention to your breath while experiencing stress and anxiety. If you find your mind starting to wander, you may gently redirect your thoughts and attention to the count of your breath and the rising and falling of your stomach with each breath.
- Schedule a time to practice this technique. Incorporating deep breathing into your routine can help manage daily stress and improve overall relaxation. Routine practice of deep breathing can improve your ability to use this technique with confidence and skill.
Deep breathing can be used along with many different coping strategies to manage stress and anxiety. Speaking with a mental health professional can help you develop additional tools to help you manage these difficult emotions. If you, or a loved one, feel they are in need of additional support to manage stress and anxiety contact Hope Avenue Counseling Services. Schedule your free 15 minute phone consultation to discuss how we can help.
By Chelsea Vance