Breathing Exercises For Stress Reduction

There is one tool which is always at our disposal in times of stress…our breathing. You can literally take a few moments at any point in your day to breathe. One of quickest ways to reduce feelings of stress or anxiety is to do breathing exercises. This is one technique you can use at work, in the car, while managing young children, or in front of a crowd people. It works everywhere.

Not only do breathing exercises help reduce anxiety in difficult moments, but it has also been shown to have long-lasting health benefits. Deep breathing has been shown to improve functioning of the autonomic nervous system which regulates involuntary bodily functions such as temperature. It can lower blood pressure and provide a sense of calm. Deep breathing has also been shown to reduce symptoms of depression, anxiety, PTSD, and stress.

These are my 2 favorite breathing exercises:

Belly breathing (diaphragmatic breathing)

Belly breathing is easy to do and very relaxing. Try this basic exercise anytime you need to relax or relieve stress.

  1. Sit or lie flat in a comfortable position. Close your eyes and bring your attention to your body and your breath.

  2. Put one hand on your belly just below your naval and the other hand on your upper chest.

  3. Take a deep breath in through your nose, and let your belly push your hand out. Your chest should not move.

  4. Breathe out through pursed lips as if you were whistling. Feel the hand on your belly go in, and use it to push all the air out. You should feel the hand on your belly move more dramatically than the hand on your chest.

  5. Do this breathing 3 to 10 times. Take your time with each breath.

Box Breathing

Box Breathing, otherwise known as Four-Square Breathing or Controlled Breathing, is a great way to reduce stress and to give your mind a break for a few minutes. The Special Forces, public speakers, and surgeons use tactical breathing to help control their thoughts and emotions when faced with challenging situations that obscure their clarity.


Box Breathing is a technique where you take slow, deep breaths while counting to four while you breathe in, hold for four, breathe out for four, hold for four.

  1. Sit upright, and then slowly exhale, getting all the oxygen out of your lungs. Really focus on this and be conscious of what you’re doing.

  2. Inhale slowly and deeply through your nose to the count of four, very slowly in your head. Feel the coolness of the air you’re breathing in and the way it fills your lungs, one section at a time until they are completely full.

  3. Hold your breath for another slow count of four.

  4. Exhale through your mouth for the same slow count of four, expelling the air from your lungs and abdomen. Be conscious of the feeling of the air leaving your lungs, how the coolness has become warmth.

  5. Then hold your breath for another 4 counts.

  6. Then repeat the process starting with breathing in for 4 counts, hold for counts, breathe out for 4 counts, and then hold for 4 counts. Repeat for 10-12 rounds, or 3-4 minutes.

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