2 Simple Breath Techniques for Managing Stress
Try These Soothing Techniques to Calm Your Mind and Body in Times of Stress or Anxiety.
Calming the mind during stressful or uncertain times can feel overwhelming. Navigating fear and uncertainty can be challenging for the mind and body as well. The breath can be used as a simple tool to support the mind and body and tap into our inner resilience. Breathing naturally soothes the nervous system, which helps calm the mind.
Today, I’m going to share with you two simple breathing techniques that you can do from home. Even though both of these techniques are easy, the trick is to remember to do them regularly. Developing a regular practice will help you build a healthy habit and reduce your overall stress level over time. You can do these sitting in a chair during the day or by simply lying on the floor. The beauty of this practice is that it’s incredibly versatile and easy to do from wherever you are at the moment, with whatever energy level you have.
You may have heard of the diaphragmatic breath, or belly breath before. The diaphragm is the most important of the muscles that helps move air in and out of the lungs. Attached to the ribs and lumbar spine, the diaphragm is shaped like a parachute or dome. When the diaphragm contracts on an inhalation, the dome pushes downward and if the abdomen is relaxed the belly will gently expand outward. On an exhalation, the diaphragm relaxes and moves back up. Belly breathing can help most people feel relaxed. As you practice it, periodically pause and observe any changes in the mind or body.
Benefits of this Exercise
In our day to day lives, it’s easy to become overstimulated with electronics or notifications on our phones. This belly breathing technique will help quiet the mind and calm the nervous system from everyday stresses. The exhale helps to stimulate the parasympathetic nervous system, which is the nervous system in charge of controlling your body at rest (these are functions like digestion and heart rate).
- Helps quiet the mind and nervous system.
- Exhale helps to stimulate the parasympathetic stimulus nervous system. This is the nervous system in charge of controlling your body at rest (things like digestion and heart rate).
- Eases fears of unknown, uncertainty and doubt, and monkey mind.
- Helps restore your sense of self, internally.
How to Do It
- Sit in a comfortable upright position, or lie on your back on the floor.
- Relax your shoulders, letting go of all tension in your upper body.
- Put one hand on your chest and hand and on your stomach.
- Breath in through your nose for two seconds, allowing the air to expand into your diaphragm. Allow your chest to remain mostly still while your stomach expands like a balloon.
- Next, purse your lips and exhale for two seconds, gently contracting your abdominal muscles. If comfortable, seal your lips and exhale through the nose.
- Repeat this exercise several times for two minutes, in a slow and controlled manner. Afterwards, you should feel a sense of calm and relaxation in your body.
- As you become comfortable with this breathing practice, explore making the exhale longer than the inhale to experience a similar (or different) calming effect.
Basic Bee Breath
This next technique is known as the bee breath, or brahmari. The name brahmari is derived from the Sanskrit term for bee. For this breath, you’ll be making a humming sound that resembles a buzzing bee. Known for its relaxing effects, this breath can help break up mental thought patterns that cause anxiety.
Benefits of this Exercise
This exercise helps soothe the nervous system by focusing your breath and limiting outside distractions and thoughts. It can help calm the mind from racing thoughts and ease anxiety by using longer focused breaths.
- Soothes the nervous system with longer breaths.
- Helps create a calm, centered inner voice.
- Reduces inflammation in the body by decreasing stress.
- Eases your fight-or-flight response (sympathetic nervous system).
- Activates your body’s built-in stress release (parasympathetic nervous system).
How to Do It
- Sit comfortably in a seated upright position or or lie on your back on the floor.
- Take a breath in slowly through your nostrils.
- Exhale and make an “mmmmm” sound with your mouth closed. This should sound like a buzzing or humming sound. Keep your facial muscles relaxed and lips gently sealed.
- Focus on the sound you make as you exhale and ignore all outside distractions and thoughts. Notice and feel and vibratory sensations in your body. This should create a relaxing and calming feeling.
- Inhale again through your nostrils and exhale making the “mmmmm” sound. Repeat this exercise for two minutes.
You can do these breathing exercises wherever you feel comfortable. Whether it’s sitting upright at your kitchen table or office chair, driving in traffic, or lying on the floor, you’ll be able to reap the benefits by simply taking two minutes to focus on your breath. Remember, no matter how overwhelmed, stressed, or busy you may feel, taking two minutes to slow down and focus on yourself can help you recenter and regain control of thoughts again.
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