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A Breathing Stress Relief Technique to Overcome Anxiety

Updated on May 4, 2013
Becoming familiar with the symptoms of stress on the body can be enough to motivate you to deal with it.
Becoming familiar with the symptoms of stress on the body can be enough to motivate you to deal with it. | Source

Qigong Breathing

Qigong breathing exercises are often done standing, but there exercises for both standing and sitting that focus on developing deeper, more tranquil breathing.
Qigong breathing exercises are often done standing, but there exercises for both standing and sitting that focus on developing deeper, more tranquil breathing. | Source

Getting a Handle on Stress with the Breath

As shown in the illustration above, there are ample physical and physiological reasons for one to learn how to overcome stress or be able to weather stressful events successfully. Wear and tear on the body is significant and can be cumulative with constant pressures of stress. The symptoms caused by stress can also lead to enhanced contraction of communicable diseases due to a weakened immune system.

A proven method of addressing stress is to use what is called breath work. Breath work is doing exercises with the diaphragm muscle in order to make respiration occur more fully, smoothly and efficiently. There are ancient traditions of breath exercises that have come from India and China, known as yoga and qigong, respectively.

A Breathing Exercise for Stress Reduction

Stress makes you stop breathing or causes you to breathe rapidly and shallowly. This happens automatically, or unconsciously. But, with practice, you can consciously intervene to observe and calm yourself. So, the goal of breathing exercises is to give you a way to place your attention on your breathing during stressful events, or even prepare yourself before an event comes up. There are several ways to do that, and you can do it in various settings - be it the workplace or at home. You just need to take a few minutes as a time out to get in touch with yourself and do this simple exercise.

Breath Watching

The is the simplest method of reducing stress. Place your attention on the breath as it goes in and out of the nose. This is all you do. When the mind makes your attention wander from this one task, bring it back to the sensation of the breath as it enters and leaves the nose. You don't think about or change your breathing. Simply watch it. You have nothing else to do. Let go of thoughts and keep it on the breath.

If needed, closing your eyes may help you keep your mind on the task.

Another aid to the process is to use an inner smile. Smile and be kind to yourself. Life is too short to treat yourself badly or harbor negative thoughts when learning how to do this important work. That attitude will make the task easier and it puts you in the best mindset to return your attention when distracting (stressful) thoughts arise during breath watching. Stress implies a negative mindset and your task is to condition yourself to maintain a positive, relaxed mindset. Chuckle at your distractions and bring yourself back to watching the breath.

If you can do this practice for 5 minutes, you will see that you have attained greater self-composure and calmness. If you have the time, practice from 15 to 20 minutes.



A 4-count Breath Watching Stress Relief Method

Using the diaphragm helps cultivate deeper, longer breaths and it helps one relax.  Stress causes shallow chest breathing.
Using the diaphragm helps cultivate deeper, longer breaths and it helps one relax. Stress causes shallow chest breathing. | Source

Posture and Other Aspects During the Breathing Exercise

You can sit on the edge of a chair or bench during the breathing, with you spine erect and the chin slightly tucked in. Shift the pelvis slight forward to help open up the lower back. All of these adjustments help open up the rib cage and belly to allow full abdominal breathing with the diaphragm.

You can place your hands on your abdomen to monitor your breath as it goes in and out. This will help you keep your focus on moving the diaphragm by following the rise and fall of the belly.

Close the eyes or keep them open, as needed. Don't focus on anything specific if you keep your eyes open.

What Do You Do to Reduce Stress?

Of the following, what do you do to reduce stress?

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Daily Practice Conditions You Towards Peace

The practice of following the breath conditions our breathing to operate more efficiently. It also helps the heart pump more efficiently and slower when we are relaxed and we breathe diaphragmatically. Daily practice trains mind and body to sustain a tranquil mode of being at all times. As Candace Pert, Ph.D., says, "our bodies are our unconscious minds," and if we practice tranquility our body chemistry will become conditioned to produce substances that maintain tranquility. It is known that during tranquility more serotonin is produced, a hormone which is important for regulating anxiety and decreasing impulsiveness.

Here are a few useful references regarding this topic:

1. Mind, Serotonin and Anxiety

2. Candace Pert's Website

3. Mindful Living Programs, Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction

Some find that keeping the eyes open helps when doing breathing exercises. You may want to place a photo of something calming in front of you, such as a flower to rest your eyes upon.
Some find that keeping the eyes open helps when doing breathing exercises. You may want to place a photo of something calming in front of you, such as a flower to rest your eyes upon. | Source

Resources for Qigong Breathing Exercises

Comments

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    • profile image

      Derdriu 

      6 years ago

      Randy, What a comfortable, relaxing summary of the good that's done emotionally, mentally and physically by watching the breath! Your illustration of stress points on the body and your explanation of breath-watching are most welcome. They're familiar to -- and practiced effectively by -- me due to training available through Andrew Quernmore's Vipassana site (http://www.vipassana.com/course/).

      Thank you for caring and sharing, etc.,

      Derdriu

    • profile image

      Jessie T. Ponce 

      7 years ago

      Excellent suggestion. Sometimes we are already running out of breath because of stress and we are still focused on something else. Thanks Randy.

    • cindy.dauer profile image

      cindy.dauer 

      7 years ago from Oregon

      I will have to try this the next time I am stressed out! Thanks.

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