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5 Breathing Techniques to Fight Stress

Breathing is something we do all day, every day in order to stay alive. But how often do you stop to think about how your breathing affects your well-being and state of mind? When you are feeling stressed or angry, the body’s natural reaction is that of flight or fight, not relax and breathe.

Many people respond to stress by lashing out at others, sleeping, self-medicating with drugs and alcohol, or other alternatives that do little to truly combat stress effectively. In order to meaningfully reduce stress, you need to tap into a state of true relaxation where the body physically responds to lower heart rate and blood pressure and increased levels of nitric oxide. One of the best ways to experience this physical reduction in stress is through controlled breathing.

Here are five breathing techniques that will help you to fight stress.

1. Equal Breathing

Equal breathing is a quick and easy way to reduce stress and anxiety. This beginner technique is based on consciously taking deep, regular breaths to calm the body as well as focus the mind. Once you begin to relax, stress hormones are naturally reduced.

Begin by sitting in a chair or on the floor in a cross-legged position. It may help to sit on a meditation cushion, pillow, or folded blanket for comfort. Close your eyes and allow yourself to become aware of your breathing for a few breaths. When you are ready, begin with an inhale and slowly count to four, pause, then count to four again as you exhale.

Pause between breaths and repeat until you feel relaxed. The goal is to equalize your breathing with your inhales and exhales. As your comfort level increases, you can extend the length of each breath as long as the inhales and exhales are held for the same amount of time.

2. Abdominal Breathing

Abdominal breathing is a deep breathing exercise that focuses on breathing with the diaphragm. This engages the entire body and is believed to increase the supply of oxygen to your brain and promotes a state of calmness.