(Breathing Exercises for Stress Management)
Picture yourself in the middle of an exam, a board meeting, or for your kids, it could be before a presentation at school or a sporting final. Your pulse is quickening, your thoughts are racing and those niggly thoughts of “I can’t do this” start rushing through your head. When we are in a perceived state of stress, we tend to shallow breathe, our heart rate increases and those negative thoughts kick in. We start to breathe rapidly filling our bodies with CO2 depriving it of valuable, calming oxygen, so, simply stop what you are doing and concentrate on your breath.
When practised regularly, breathing exercises like the ones listed below can help us to regulate our breathing and the fight-or-flight response we feel when we are stressed. They will help in bringing about a sense of calm to the anxious mind and body releasing those feel-good endorphins, lowering blood pressure and relieving stress and anxiety.
Belly Breathing (Diaphragmatic Breathing)
The diaphragm is actually the primary breathing muscle and sits just under the lungs. Belly breathing exercises help to exercise this primary muscle and place less stress on the chest and secondary muscles that are not actually designed for breathing. Simply inhale through the nose and expand the belly (rather than the chest) exhale through the mouth and squeeze the belly to release all of the air out of your lungs. Repeat up to 10 times.
4 Count Breathing for kids
Try 4 count breathing (or for our younger kids try 3 counts). Breathe in for the count of 4, hold for the count of 4, breathe out for the count of 4. Repeat 3 more times. Use a pinwheel or party blower to practise at home. Simply inhale, hold and then exhale blowing the pinwheel or party blower. The more our kids practise this at home when they are calm the easier it will be for them to implement this when they are starting to get stressed. You can also use a straw in a glass of water or blowing bubbles in the same way. Inhale through the nose for the count of 4, hold for the count of 4, exhale through the mouth for a count of 4. When they have become professionals at this, increase the hold and exhale to 5 or 6 counts.
4-7-8 Breathing for Adults
This exercise works in the same way as our kids’ 4 count breathing, we are just holding and exhaling for a longer period of time. Inhale through the nose for a count of 4, hold for a count of 7 and then exhale through the mouth for a count of 8.
One Minute Meditation
Meditation allows you to live in the moment, to calm yourself and to regulate your breathing. Simply breathe in and breathe out (breathe into your belly if you can). Just concentrate on your breath. Every time your mind wanders just bring it back to your breath. Breathe in and breathe out. One minute is all it takes to reset the mind and calm the body. You should get about 16 breaths in one minute for a healthy adult or about 25 breaths in a primary school aged child so just count your breaths. Breathe in, one, breathe out. Breathe in, two, breathe out and continue for one minute.
Breathing exercises like those mentioned here can also be particularly useful at bedtime promoting quality sleep. They are also discreet in nature which means they can be practised at any time of the day and in just about any type of environment. No matter what time of the day you decide to practise, just try them for yourself and notice the results.
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