• Tricia Szameit

Reduce Stress & Anxiety - Just Breathe

There are numerous benefits to 'mindful breathing' that have all been proven scientifically, best of all reducing stress and anxiety - both of which are on the rise worldwide. A big reason mediation is so helpful is because it is deeply connected to breathing. Simply changing your focus from your internal dialogue and thoughts to your breathing, almost immediately, reduces overwhelming anxiety. These tips and techniques are for those suffering with Anxiety, Stress, and even Depression. If you already meditate but haven't used different breathing techniques, try these to change up your practice a bit.

Below are six different techniques. We can all benefit from practicing each one but let's look at what works best for your situation. Safety first however, please make sure you are in a safe and comfortable position before starting any of these.

Abdominal Breathing is one of the easiest breathing techniques to master. This is a very powerful way to reduce anxiety or stress in just moments. It is also perfect for those starting in a meditation practice. Use it when you need to refocus, start to lose your temper, or get upset about something that shouldn't really be so upsetting.

  1. Place one hand on your chest and one on your stomach.

  2. Take a deep breath in through your nose.

  3. Slowly release through your nose.

  4. Observe the inflation of your diaphragm with your hands while you continue deep breathing.

  5. Keep this focus on the changes, in your diaphragm and counting, for as long as you can or until the feelings move to one where you are in control again.

4-7-8 Technique or Relaxing Breath is quick and easy. Having trouble sleeping? This one will get you there faster than expected. It also has great benefits when anxiety is peaking. Here is how to focus:

  1. Breathe in 4 Seconds.

  2. Hold the breath 7 Seconds.

  3. Exhale the breath over 8 Seconds.

  4. Stay focused on the counting until your anxiety attack ends or you drift off to sleep.

Mala Bead Breathing is used to keep track of your breaths without having to count. Mala beads can actually be used with any technique if you prefer not to count. This method is best used when you want to keep a regular practice of mindful breathing. If you regularly meditate using Mala Beads try switching crystals with your malas, based on your intention, and see if your results change.

  1. Starting at the guru bead, the 109th and larger bead, take a moment to consider what you want your goal is or set your intention.

  2. Hold the guru bead bead in your predominant hand allowing the necklace to drape comfortably between your other fingers. This will allow you to keep your eyes closed and focus on the breath.

  3. Move your thumb along each smaller bead focusing on one breath at each of the smaller beads.

  4. Do this 108 times until you return to your guru bead.

Alternate Nostril Breathing has been shown to enhance cardiovascular function and to lower heart rates. You want to avoid this one if you are feeling sick or congested, especially in your sinuses. This can be pretty tough if you are having an anxiety attack but it just might be the most useful and quickest way to end the attack. It is important to focus on keeping your breath smooth and even throughout this practice. Hand placement is not critical. You should find what is most comfortable for you.

  1. Choose a comfortable position. Lay down if possible.

  2. Use your predominant hand. Press your pinky and ring fingers down toward your palm leaving your other fingers extended.

  3. Resting your thumb comfortably above your jaw line press your other two fingers against your nostril.

  4. Take a deep breath in through the open nostril. Holding that breath switch your fingers to the alternate side.

  5. Slowly exhale through the open side. This is considered one cycle.

  6. Complete this cycle for five breaths.

  7. On your sixth breath begin the process using the opposite side.

  8. Continue this breathing pattern for up to 5 minutes or until your anxiety attack ends.

Resonant or Coherent Breathing happens when you breathe at a rate of 5 full breaths per minute. You can achieve this rate by inhaling and exhaling for a count of 5. Breathing at this rate has been found to maximize your heart rate variability, significantly reduce stress levels, and ease symptoms of depression according to a 2017 study. To do this:

  1. Inhale for a count of 5.

  2. Exhale for a count of 5.

  3. Focus on your breath and continue this breathing pattern for at least three minutes.

Wim Hof Method is a great way to release some difficult feelings, help you handle cold winter days, breathe more deeply and fully during your workouts, have better flexibility, and help heal your body. In my opinion, this one takes a lot more practice but the results are pretty astounding if you are willing to put the effort in.

1. You are best starting by lying down and using the app as a guide. The app walks you through the practice and explains the process in full detail. This is an interesting breathing technique that I am currently working on. Using the functions built into the program make it simple and easy to get started. There are also safety and how-to videos you should watch before starting.

2. Start with several full rapid breaths, move into breath holding, and then a cool down phase. It's about driving more oxygen into your body and blood making you less acidic. Highly acidic bodies tend to be ill or bring on disease, as I have learned from my own naturopathic doctor. These are on the rise along with anxiety. This technique has been scientifically studied and shown to be beneficial for those suffering from autoimmune diseases. I would love to know your results if you do try this technique!

The takeaway here is slowing down, for only a few minutes a day, and paying close attention to how we breathe can actually end anxiety, ease depression, improve our overall health, and reduce stress levels immediately. Now is a great time to focus on your breathing and let go of everything else. Some methods might not be your thing but you will likely benefit greatly trying each of them at least once. Meditation is not required to breathe. Just pay attention to your breath and see where you go with it!

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