The brain connects and controls your body’s functions in so many complex ways.
When you’re stressed, your senses detect a threat of some kind, and prepare your body to fight a battle or run away and hide. Your body shows you this through quick breaths, an increased heart rate, and jumpy muscles. But while the human brain is brilliant in so many ways, it’s also easy to trick.
One way to do this is by invoking a relaxation response: through stillness and deep, slow breathing, you tell the brain that all is well. So while a frustrated boss, parking ticket, or tantruming child may not disappear, you can convince your mind that everything is under control. Read on for some breathing tips to trick your mind into letting go of all that stress.
This is best practiced when you have space to spread out. Lying down on your back on a mat, towel, or rug, place one hand on your stomach. If you have difficulties lying flat, you can make use of pillows to support your head or knees.
Breathe in through your nose and let your breath fill your stomach so that it lifts your hand. Your chest shouldn’t move. Breathe out slowly through your mouth as though you were whistling. Feel your hand sink again. Repeat several times.
This can be done in any position and any time you don’t mind making a tiny bit of noise. It’s best known as an aid for falling asleep, but can be used for stress management as well. Touch the tip of your tongue to the top of your mouth just behind your teeth and leave it there. Breathe in quietly through your nose for a count of four, then hold your breath for a count of seven.
Then, open your mouth (keeping your tongue in place) and breathe out through your mouth for a count of eight. Your breath should make a whooshing noise as it exits your mouth around your tongue; this is how you know you’re doing it right. Don’t worry about how fast or slowly you’re counting. The important part is the ratio of 4:7:8, not the exact duration. You’ll soon settle into a pace that is comfortable to you.
Sometimes your physiological response takes you from general stress to an anxiety attack. If you find yourself breathing rapidly and unable to catch your breath because of a stressful situation, you’re usually not lacking in oxygen at all. Rather, hyperventilation has left you with too much oxygen and not enough carbon dioxide in your lungs. To help stabilize your breathing, cup your hands around your nose and mouth, or breathe into a paper bag.
If you’re at home, you can get a similar result from hiding under a duvet or comforter. It should help you to regain control over your breathing, which is one less thing to be anxious about.
Singing, at its core, is just a deep breathing exercise with some lovely auditory side effects. The stress-relief benefits of singing are numerous, including the production of oxytocin and endorphins, as well as decreased cortisol levels. Group singing seems to have the most powerful effect of all.
So whether you turn up your favorite song and sign along in the car, amuse your little one with a rousing rendition of The Itsy-Bitsy Spider, or join a community choir, make a place for your life for singing, regardless of your skill level.
Looking for other natural ways to help you breathe deeper?
Learn more about how Airloom can help.