Got stress? Take a deep breath. No really. Concentrated breathing exercises can be one of the simplest yet most effective stress management techniques you can employ.
Stress is a topic we turn to frequently on this blog because it’s a health and wellness issue that affects everybody. We all have stress and we actually need stress, but there is both good and bad stress, and too much bad stress can cause problems, particularly over a prolonged period of time. It can translate into headaches, insomnia, teeth grinding, gut churning, high blood pressure, appetite disorders, and more. Over a long term, it can be a factor in depression, high blood pressure, and chronic life-threatening health conditions like heart disease and digestive issues. See our prior post for a fascinating look at what happens to your body when you are stressed out.
All too often, when we are facing stress, we try to find relief by turning to unhelpful “comfort” methods like smoking, alcohol, pills, or overeating – things that actually exacerbate the problem rather than help it.
Regular exercise is a good way to burn off stress, but it can also help to practice some form of relaxation techniques. Yoga, meditation, playing a musical instrument, massages, dancing, walking in nature, or engaging in activity that requires immersion and focus are all positive ways to relax. But one very basic relaxation technique that you can practice anywhere and anytime is engaging in deep breathing exercises.
One mistake people often make is thinking that deep breathing is something that they already know how to do: just take big gulps of fresh air and hold it in, right? Wrong, says breathing expert Dr. Belisa Vranich. She says that when it comes to breathing for relaxation, most of us are doing it wrong – you might be a “vertical breather” – many people are. She’s studied the topic of breathing techniques to relieve stress and “teaches people to breathe in an anatomically congruous way that maximizes balanced inhales and exhales.” In a recent TED video, she talks about how and why to do it right, and offers a few breathing exercises to get you started.
Try it out, it’s a great technique you can employ often.
Earlier this year, we offered some other stress management techniques you may find helpful, too. But if you experience ongoing stress that is interfering with life enjoyment, health, or your relationship with others, you would likely benefit from stress counseling or coaching to help you identify your stress triggers and learn specific techniques to anticipate and manage your unique stress points.