Mindful Breathing to Reduce Stress

Focusing on your breathing is one of the easiest yet most effective ways to alleviate stress. While numerous books delve into this topic, the suggestions below can serve as a helpful starting point for you. Given that breathing is a constant activity, you will have ample chances to hone this technique!

Less is More

The first and most crucial step in reducing stress is to breathe less through your nose while maintaining a regular breathing pattern. Initially, taking a deep breath or two can help you start practicing breath control. Focus on breathing regularly but at a slower pace with less air volume after these initial breaths. While you may not instantly decrease your breathing rate, with practice, it will likely decrease gradually over several breaths. Through consistent practice, you may achieve a breathing rate as slow as 6 breaths per minute (one every 10 seconds) and inhale less air in the process. Breathing in this manner can significantly reduce feelings of anxiety, making it less likely for you to feel anxious. For many individuals, this initial step leads to a noticeable and satisfactory decrease in anxiety levels.

Breathe Like a Baby

Many of us find it uncomfortable to push the diaphragm downward towards the pelvis, causing the abdomen to protrude. However, even a slight movement in this direction can greatly aid in mindful breathing. Learning this diaphragm movement can be difficult for some individuals. Techniques such as pushing against your waistband, lying down with a book on your abdomen as it rises and falls with each breath, or leaning forward while seated and focusing on diaphragmatic breathing can help with this process.

Take It Down

When practicing diaphragmatic breathing, concentrate on drawing your breath into your lower back, where the lungs reach further down. This emphasis will strengthen your diaphragmatic breathing and reduce the reliance on your chest.

Stop Breathing

Many people are accustomed to the typical breathing pattern of inhaling and exhaling. However, you may benefit from integrating a brief pause between breaths, as in the 4-square breathing technique. With this method, you inhale, pause, exhale, pause, allocating 4 to 5 seconds for each phase. One advantage of incorporating a pause between breaths is the opportunity for complete relaxation, as you do not need to hold your breath during the subsequent pause. When practicing this technique while lying down, you can achieve total relaxation of all voluntary muscles during the pause. Over time, with consistent practice, the duration of the pause can extend to several seconds, resulting in a reduction of breathing frequency to just a few breaths per minute or even less. For inspiration, consider exploring the abilities of experienced breath practitioners such as yogis or deep-sea divers who have honed the art of mindful breathing.

Breaking it Down

Breathe less air through your nose, take slower breaths, focus on using your diaphragm instead of your chest, draw your breath down to your lower back, and pause briefly after each exhale. This video effectively showcases these practices.

Breaking it Down

Even if you have mastered the mindful breathing techniques, they will not be effective unless implemented. Consider setting alarms on your phone as a reminder to practice breathing exercises. Connect your breathing routine to various activities such as reaching for your phone, transitioning between tasks throughout the day, or during moments of pause in between activities (e.g. logging in, waiting at a stoplight, or waiting for someone to answer the phone). Making small adjustments to your stress levels throughout the day can contribute to improved well-being by day’s end, reducing the urge to seek alternative methods for relaxation.

Instead of solely dwelling on self-criticism, consider the circumstances surrounding your actions. Given the same scenario, personal background, and triggers, would another person have made a similar choice? Reflect on what insights you gain about yourself. Avoid black-and-white thinking. A decision that wasn’t optimal likely wasn’t entirely flawed. Embracing decisions, facing outcomes, and evolving through this journey shapes our growth into responsible adults. If you or someone you know is struggling with an addiction to drugs or alcohol, call us today at (727)498-6498.

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