We all know what it’s like to feel stressed, and we often comprehend the level of stress we’re under by recognizing its symptoms. We may experience sweaty palms in response to a work presentation that involves public speaking or we may lose sleep for weeks over a relationship that’s under strain.
Stress can manifest itself in many ways, both physical and emotional. According to the World Health Organization, stress is defined as a state or worry or tension caused by a difficult situation. Experiencing stress is a normal part of daily life, even though it feels unpleasant. Stress is a normal response to challenges, but prolonged stress can cause damage to our mental and physical health.
Deep breathing is one of the simplest, most effective antidotes to stress in our daily lives. Whether you experience work stress, relationship issues, worries over your children or clinical anxiety disorder, the benefits of deep breathing can improve your life.
Here’s what you need to know about breathing exercises for stress and the best calming breathing techniques.
The effectiveness of breathing exercises for stress
It doesn’t take an expert to know that stress takes a toll on a person. According to the Mayo Clinic, excessive stress can lead to the following symptoms.
- Muscle strain or pain
- Chest pain
- Changes in libido
- Stomach and digestive issues
- Sleep disturbances
- Low motivation
- Appetite changes
- Substance use
- Social withdrawal
- Negative lifestyle changes
Long-term stress can lead to an increased risk of hypertension, heart attack and stroke. According to a meta-analysis published in the JBI Database of Systematic Reviews and Implementation Reports that studied the benefits of breathing to decrease physiological and psychological stress, the harms of chronic stress are serious and may be combated with breathing techniques.
The study stated that treatments that are non-pharmacologic, low-cost and self-administered can mitigate the severity of stress. The study found breathing exercises for stress to be both effective and reasonable to teach and implement.
According to the Harvard Medical School, stress can also impair the body’s immune response, making it more difficult to fight off disease. Deep breathing can decrease stress and help to undo damage to the immune system.
Deep breathing offers benefits to specific organs, too. The American Lung Association states that deep breathing replaces stale air in the lungs with fresh air, increasing oxygen levels in your body and allowing the diaphragm to work at full capacity.
The benefits of breathing exercises
Breathing exercises can help to reduce stress in your life, whether you face occasional stress or chronic anxiety. When you make this practice part of your daily routine, you can expect the reap the following benefits of breathing exercises.
Deep breathing, depending on the technique used, can offer changes in mood. As you breathe in and out, you’re increasing oxygen flow to the brain, which helps you to think more clearly and be in control of your thoughts. Deep breathing can help you take a step back from emotional reactions and connect with your thoughts and feelings without letting them govern your actions.
Improved muscle functioning
Deep breathing during exercise or strenuous physical tasks can prevent strain and help your muscles to perform at their highest capacity. Breathing exercises for stress are often used by professional athletes and women in labor. If calming breathing techniques can work in these high-stakes scenarios, they can surely improve your body’s abilities in daily life.
Oxygenates your blood
Deep breathing increases the percentage of oxygen in your body’s blood. Your bloodstream circulates this oxygen throughout your entire body, replacing worn-out cells, supplying energy and boosting your immune system in the process.
Reduces blood pressure
Chronic stress can contribute to chronic high blood pressure, which brings a host of its own problems. High blood pressure can result in damage to the heart and arteries, kidney damage, vision issues, impaired memory and more. Daily deep breathing can reduce blood pressure and work as a preventative measure against the potential harm of high blood pressure.
Best breathing exercises for anxiety and stress
While calming breathing techniques are not to be considered a full treatment for anxiety and stress, practices that incorporate deep, diaphragmic breathing can be incorporated as a complementary therapy, coping mechanism and self-care strategy.
Deep breathing generally refers to exercises in which a person inhales fully through the nose, filling the lungs and letting the belly rise. Deep breathing takes intentionality to learn and is often combined with meditation, prayer, mindfulness practices and yoga. It is sometimes used in more formalized treatment techniques like progressive muscle relaxation therapy and trauma-focused therapy, too.
Deep breathing for stress and anxiety aims to calm both the body and the mind so a person can experience whole-person healing. If you’re looking for the best breathing exercises for anxiety, consider the following activities.
A guided breathing meditation
A guided video can offer you many breathing exercise benefits, especially if you’re just starting out. Many videos can be found for free online that offer step-by-step instructions.
Pursed lip breathing
By first relaxing your neck, shoulders and face muscles and then pursing your lips and breathing slowly through for four or five seconds, you can easily learn this calming breathing technique.
Breathing in, holding your breath, and breathing out is one of the simplest practices to begin regulating your breath. This exercise, like most breathing exercises for stress, can be done virtually anywhere with no equipment (and often without others noticing).
Treatment for chronic stress
If you’re struggling with stress or anxiety that feels unmanageable, reach out to Silvermist Recovery. At Silvermist Recover you can find the mental health treatment you need without adding extra stress to your plate.