How To Breathe Your Worries Away

by - May 20, 2017

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Being fully able to relax both mind and body after a stress-packed week by just going to bed early on a Friday night doesn't do miracles for everyone. It's no surprise that there are moments when we need more in order to unwind, especially when the stress persists in several consecutive weeks. Prolonged exposure to stress induces cortisol, which has a negative impact on our brains and overall health. It's not only proven to be bad for the immune system and our physical health, but also for some brain structures such as the hippocampus, which is linked with memory.

There are plenty of relaxation methods out there from exercise and yoga to acupuncture and massage, but I'd like you to take notice of the simplest technique that involves the least amount of time and resources - breathing.

Sometimes taking regular care of yourself might be the last on your list when priority is given to your other commitments. Yet if you dedicate a few minutes at the end or the beginning of the day, during a commute or at work, you'll know that the time you've invested will ultimately benefit you in the long run. Stress has long-term effects, let's not let it win.

I suggest you try them all and see what works best for you. If it helps you interrupt your daily thoughts and ease your mind, you'll know it's the right one.

Deep breathing helps you inhale more oxygen, which will reduce the tension and anxiety you feel in your body.

1. Sit comfortably with your back straight or lie flat. Place one hand on your chest and the other hand on your stomach below the ribs.
2. Inhale deeply through your nose. The hand on your stomach will rise, but your chest should not move.
3. Exhale through your mouth by pursing your lips as if you were whistling. You would feel the hand on your stomach move in.
4. Repeat a few times (e.g., five as a start) and take your time - don't rush it.

You can perform this breathing exercise in corporation with deep breathing or not. Personally, I often use it on its own. It's my go-to-go technique, maybe because (okay I admit) it's really simple.

1. Position yourself for deep breathing: Sit comfortable or lie down. Place a hand on your chest and another on your stomach.
2. Inhale deeply from your abdomen and count to 4 as you do it.
3. Hold your breath, while counting from 1 to 7.
4. Exhale fully, while counting from 1 to 8.
5. Repeat until you feel more relaxed.

You can do this technique sitting, lying down or standing up. It's up to you!

1. If you are sitting, place your hands on your sides. If lying down - position your arms a bit away from your sides with the palms up and keep legs straight or bend your knees so the feet are flat.
2. Inhale and feel the way your breath flows as deep as you can in your abdomen without forcing it.
3. Breathe in through your nose and exhale through your mouth.
4. Slowly and gently breathe in on a count from 1 to 5. You may not be able to reach 5 from the first go, so give it some time.
5. Then exhale gently without holding your breath on the count from 1 to 5.
6. Repeat several times.

Start with this method in the morning to clear any stiffness from your night's sleep and you can repeat throughout the day, if you feel the need to.

1. Standing bend forward with the knees slightly bend, letting arms hanging close to the floor.
2. Start inhaling slowly as you gently return back to standing position, lift your head last.
3. Hold your breath for a few seconds standing.
4. Exhale by returning to the previous position of bending forward.

Also called Progressive Muscle Relaxation - it's not primarily a breathing exercise, but it is a really good exercise to try. With regular practice, it will help you indicate the tension in your body and get rid of it, which will simultaneously ease your mind. Well, its name says it all.

1. Sit or lie down comfortably.
2. Start by breathing deeply and slowly.
3. Then focus your attention on the right foot and how it feels.
4. Gently tense the muscles (not too much!) of your foot and hold to ten. Then relax the muscles and focus on how it feels. Breathe slowly and stay in this state for a moment
5. Afterwards, focus your attention on your left foot and follow the same steps as above.
6. Repeat the sequence by directing your attention to the other parts of your body - right thigh and left thigh, hips, stomach, chest, back, right arm and hand, left arm and hand, shoulders, neck and face as you make your way up.

This is just one of the many varieties of mindful breathing. There is also a good range of yoga breathing techniques for the curious ones. I've never really tried them, so I wouldn't be much of a help in that department, but if you are a yoga lover - go ahead!

1. Take a comfortable position and close your eyes, relax your body muscles.
2. Focus on breathing naturally.
3. Place your hands on your stomach.
4. Inhale through your nose and then exhale slowly through your mouth. Continue.
5. Notice your stomach push your hands apart as you breathe in. Then focus on your stomach sinking back as you breathe out.
6. It's normal for thoughts to come to your mind, don't attach meanings to them and don't engage - just acknowledge them and then focus on your breathing.
7. Same with physical sensations - take a notice and get back to focusing on your breathing.
8. Stay in this state for as long as you need and then open your eyes.

Originally, this technique is suggested to be performed when you're already in bed before you fall asleep. However, I liked it so much that I started using it throughout my day when I feel my body is tensed up.

1. Lie down or sit down, whatever you like.
2. You can close your eyes if you want to.
3. Take a slow, deep breath through your nose and hold for as long as you can.
4. The moment you feel you can't hold it any longer, gently exhale through your mouth.
5. Repeat a few times until you feel relaxed.

Simple, I know, but effective!

I'll be happy to hear your opinions and suggestions in the comment section below!

Wellness is the place where you can join us on our journey to test some of those lifestyle tools and techniques the world has given us in its attempt to help us 'relax'. Working out, breathing, foods to avoid or cling to, journaling, and so on. We will share with you what worked, what didn't and what surprised us most. And of course, we'll encourage you to try your own!

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