How to do breathing exercises for stress?
If you’re not sure how to get started, there are lots of guides online for more mindful and focused breathing that take just a few minutes to complete. We asked some experts to share some of their favourites.
“This one is super easy and it instantly relieves stress. Take a deep breath in through your nose, then immediately take another short sharp breath in through your nose (a sharp sniff).
When you’re stressed you tend to breathe shallowly, at the top of your lungs. The deep breath gets air right down to the bottom of your lungs, and the second breath snaps open the millions of tiny alveoli (tiny air sacs in the lungs, they’re the workhorses of your respiratory system) which improves your oxygen uptake) says Geraldine Joaquim,
Clinical hypnotherapist and wellness coach.
“If you have your hands free, place them on your belly or lower rib cage, otherwise just become aware of this area and direct your breath here. Slow your breath down, imagine you are breathing in a delicate thread of air that is reaching low down into the belly and then slowly exhale it (use the nose, not the mouth). Make your breath as slow as you can but aim for 5-6 seconds for the inhale and the same for the exhale. This is called coherent breathing and will bring your heart and brain into coherence so that you feel balanced, present and calm. You can sit or stand whilst you do this, it’s a breath that you can do any place, any time,” says yoga teacher Cat Merrick.
4-7-8 breathing is a breathing technique that activates your parasympathetic nervous system (the bit that helps you relax). The idea is that you let your lips part and exhale completely through your mouth. Then you silently inhale through your nose whilst you count to 4. Follow this by holding your breath for seven seconds and then exhaling for a further 8. Want to know if it makes a difference? Check out our 14-day 4-7-8 breathing challenge before bed on the Bearable app.
Box breathing (also called square breathing) involves breathing in intervals of four seconds. First, breathe in and count to 4 slowly, then hold for a further four. Now exhale through your mouth for 4 more seconds. Repeat this cycle as many times as you can for around 30 seconds to help slow down your breathing.