Stress. It’s an inevitable part of life that each and every one of us faces on a day to day basis and unfortunately, one thing that can completely change your quality of life.
Stress has the ability to impact you on a number of levels. It is well-proven to increase your risk factor for a variety of different diseases.
For instance, those who are under great deals of stress on a chronic level will be at a higher risk for suffering from heart disease, stroke, even diabetes.
While you may not feel that your body is slipping into a diseased state physiologically, it is happening each and every day you lead that stressful life.
Psychological Impact of Stress
Likewise, stress can impact you on a psychological level. Those who are under chronically high levels of stress are more likely to suffer from depression and other mood disorders.
Often they’ll become irritable and rather short with those around them, which is unfortunate because there is much to gain from forming strong social relationships, especially as far as combating stress is concerned.
As they become more irritable, they tend to push those who are close to them away, which then just causes them to sink deeper into that depressive state. It’s a never-ending cycle and once it’s started, it can be hard to break free.
Stress – The Silent Killer
Stress is often called the “silent’ killer” and for good reason – it impacts you on so many different levels, many of which you just aren’t aware of.
Because of the fact most people have heard that stress can be very detrimental to overall good health, they are taking steps to achieve better stress management.
They’re reading self-help books on how to deal with stress, they’re seeking out counseling to help learn how to better control the stress in their lives, and they may be participating in intense workout sessions as an outlet to provide stress relief.
And while all of these stress controlling tactics are great and can be very helpful, often we are forgetting about one of the most powerful weapons against stress: breathing.
Stress Management Through The Power Of Breathing
That’s right, your very own breathing patterns – something that you generally aren’t even consciously aware of on a daily basis can have a profound influence over the stress levels you sustain over time.
Today I am going to show you how breathing will impact your stress level, why it’s proven that paying more attention to this factor can go a long way towards help you achieve superior stress management and relaxation, and how to deal with stress through a few simple quick and easy breathing exercises that you can do right in the comfort of your own home.
In fact, some you can do without moving a muscle. Just sitting in your chair there are steps you can be taking to help provide better stress relief and get into a state of relaxation.
So let’s begin by first talking about the power of proper breathing.
How To Deal With Stress – The Power Breathing Has
When looking at breathing exercises and techniques, we can see that they go back many years to date. Old school forms of exercise including tai chi, yoga, as well as martial arts all have an element of regulated breathing built right into the practice.
Teachers of these activities knew that if one was to achieve a state of complete physical power and control, breathing needed to be carried out in a certain manner.
When you stop and think about it, breathing impacts everything you do in your life. Essentially, if you stopped breathing, that would be it. Life would cease to exist. It’s also one of the few things that you can do both unconsciously as well as consciously.
Sitting there right now reading this, you likely aren’t focusing too much on your breathing, however you are continuously taking air into the body and then pushing air out.
Now that we’ve started talking about breathing, there’s a good chance that you’ve suddenly become more aware of it. Now you are conscious of it and may find that you are exerting some control over how you are breathing.
The fact that you can control this – and that you can do it automatically proves that it’s something worth paying attention to. If you don’t control it and just let your instincts rule how you breath, the chances you are breathing correctly for proper health decline.
The Current State Of Our Breathing Patterns
If you take a good look at how life has changed over the last fifty years or so, you’ll notice that we as humans went from a life that involved plenty of walking around and physical activity to a life that involved a lot of sitting.
We’re now sitting at desks, often for eight or more hours each day, only to go home and for many of us, sit some more.
Sitting itself changes your pattern of breathing. Stop right now and take a look at how you’re sitting in your chair as you read this. Are you slouched over a bit? Are your shoulders rounded? Is your head jutting out from your spinal column slightly?
If even one of these is occurring right now, you are hindering the natural breathing process. You are making it harder for your body to take in the level of oxygen it needs and also harder for it to eliminate the carbon dioxide waste you are creating.
The Consequences Of Poor Breathing
This challenge to your breathing is going to lead to that feeling of sluggishness that you likely experience come 2 pm in the afternoon, headaches, difficulty concentrating, and an overall feeling of being unwell.
If you currently experience any of these throughout the day, you’re experiencing the drawbacks of improper breathing.
Breathing And Stress
Now, you know what else can cause your breathing pattern to change? Stress. That’s right – the big problem we spoke about earlier that impacts the body in so many negative ways will also influence your breathing.
When you become highly stressed out, you’ll be more prone to breathing through the chest rather than the diaphragm, taking small, shallow breaths in and out.
These breaths are not allowing your brain to get the oxygen it needs, thus the feeling of fatigue and lack of concentration results.
Fortunately, all of this is easily fixable with a few breathing exercises, which we’ll get to shortly.
Getting back to our focus on those activities we noted above, all of them are built on the foundation of proper breathing patterns.
And, research has proven, they all can offer great health benefits.
Yoga, Breathing, And Health
Take yoga for instance. One study published in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine noted that when a group of subjects, all of whom suffered from hypertension, coronary artery disease, diabetes, or other illnesses took part in a short-term, 10 day trial involving yoga, they showed favorable metabolic effects that helped minimize the severity of their conditions.
This illustrates that the power of regularly practicing yoga with breathing and the stress reduction that goes with it doesn’t take long to start exerting it’s powerful effects.
Meditation, Breathing, And Health
Meditation, which isn’t so much a form of physical exercise but is an activity that really puts breathing in the spotlight has also been proven time and time again to help improve your health status.
A study published in the Behavioral Medicine journal noted that when patients took part in a meditation program, their risk factors for the progression of pathophysiological changes underlying cardiovascular disease decreased. The patients taking part also demonstrated significant reductions in blood pressure.
In addition to help improve the rate of oxygen deliver to the brain and carbon dioxide out of the body, breathing also has the power to eliminate toxins, specifically carbon monoxide from the body as well.
If you look at how one breathes when practicing martial arts or yoga, often a slow deep breath is drawn in and then forcefully, that air is expelled from the body as quickly as possible.
As this happens, toxins are moved out of the system, improving the state of your internal environment.
If you live in a busy city area where you are taking in fumes on a daily basis from power plants or other sources, chances are you have carbon monoxide slowly building up in your system.
This carbon monoxide can join onto your cells faster than even oxygen can, so if you have too much of this building up in your system, you simply won’t be able to take in as much oxygen as you should be.
This is why detoxification is so important. Breathing can help you achieve that.
In today’s world, if you are actively taking part in tai chi, yoga, martial arts, or meditation, you will be actively focusing on your breathing so you will be achieving this already.
If you are not however, then it’s time that you started taking steps to concentrate more on your breathing throughout the day to help regain lost energy, achieve stress management, as well as help detoxify your both.
Let’s now look at a few of the simple, yet highly effective breathing exercises you can do that.
Desktop Recovery Breathing – The Double Inhale
The very first breathing exercise I want you to try doing is what I call the desktop recovery breathing exercise. You can do this exercise any time you are sitting there are start to feel yourself becoming overwhelmed with fatigue.
Instead of thinking that you need to just go take a nap, try this breathing exercise and you should notice an immediate improvement in how you feel.
Here are the steps to take.
- Begin by standing up in an upright position and then holding both hands out to the sides of the body.
- Next, start out by taking two exhales, trying to exhale all the oxygen from inside the body out. Do this swiftly in
one forceful movement and as you do this, bring the arms to the front of the body, closing the hands together.
- Now take two powerful inhales and as you do that, open the arms back out to the sides, thinking of opening the
chest as you do and lifting the head up ever so slightly. Feel your body tense up as oxygen moves into the
system, which creates an electrical flow throughout the entire system.
- Repeat this process two times.
After doing this just short exercise, you should immediately be feeling more energized, focused, and ready to get back to your day.
It can be done any time throughout the day when you need a quick pick-me up, and should be encouraged multiple times throughout any given 24 hour period. It’ll go a long way towards helping with detoxification as noted above.
The Walking Breath
The next breathing exercise you’re going to do I like to call the walking breath. This one is going to work to increase your oxygen capacity, making it easier for your body to get the oxygen to the brain that it needs on an every day basis.
Additionally, it’ll also get your lymphatic system moving, assisting with the detoxification process as well.
It’s going to follow a 10-10-10 rhythmic pattern. Here’s how to do it.
- Begin walking using a comfortable but brisk walk (note you’ll need enough open space to do this, or if you really
must, simply walk on the spot).
- Begin to take a deep breath in as you are walking, inhaling for a count of ten.
- Once you’ve inhaled as much air as you possibly can, you’ll now hold that breath for a count of ten. You should
still be walking forward at this time.
- Finally, to finish off the exercise, you’ll now exhale for a count of ten, trying to force all that air out of the body as
When you first begin this breathing exercise, it’s unlikely you’ll be able to inhale, hold, and exhale all for a count of ten. Don’t worry if that’s the case. Focus on doing it for a count of five to get used to the pattern to start with.
What’s going to happen is that as you continually keep practicing this, your mitochondria in your cells will start to grow stronger and more efficient.
Right now as most of you sit there right now, your mitochondria have become quite lazy and have gotten ‘carboned up’. Basically, they’re not functioning at their ideal and are going to need to get worked in order to push those carbons out of your system and free up those mitochondria to begin utilizing oxygen as they should once again.
As you keep working with these long breaths as well as your shorter breaths that we spoke about above, you’ll start to feel the effects in how regulated you can make your breathing, as well as the energy level you are maintaining.
This breathing exercise may feel slightly awkward at first, but do your best to push through that feeling and you should notice that you begin feeling better after continual practice.
Super Power Breathing
Another exercise I want to share with you is one that originated from Paul Bragg, the man who kick-started America’s wellness movement. This one is great if you are feeling very tired and just need a boost to get through your day.
Here’s how to do it.
- Get up into a standing position.
- Begin to forcefully exhale and as you do, bring the arms down to the feet, bending over at the waist and feeling
all the oxygen leaving your system.
- As you reverse this and begin to inhale, lift the body up as you bring the arms up over the head, feeling the body
open up as oxygen comes in.
- Some people may wish to lean to one side and then the other as you inhale which opens up various areas of the
This is another great one to do periodically throughout the day and only takes a minute or two.
Now one thing I want to mention about all of these breathing exercises is to achieve maximum stress management and relaxation, you want to be breathing strictly through your diaphragm, not your chest. Too many people will breathe in and out opening their rib cage and chest up, which is not what you want.
Instead, the movement should come strictly from deep inside the body while the chest remains nearly motionless. This type of breathing is often called ‘belly breathing’ and is the way that singers are taught to breathe.
Once you’ve mastered the 10-10-10, you can move to the 30-30-30, which is the most advanced of all the breathing exercises you can do.
This one is also a great way to segue into meditation, so for those who want to start getting into that practice, it’s going to do an excellent job at helping you get prepared for that.
You’ll be really training your cells to function at an optimal level with this exercise, so for those who want to go that extra step, it’s a wise one to start doing.
- Find somewhere to sit where you can be comfortable, keeping the back upright and the arms and shoulders
- Begin breathing in slowly, holding this inhale for a count of 30.
- Hold the oxygen in your system for the next 30 seconds.
- Begin to exhale, forcing the air out of the body at a smooth but steady pace over the next 30 seconds
Here again, you may not be able to do this for the full 30 seconds to start. That’s fine – just do what you can and gradually work up to increasing the total length that you’re holding each breath over time.
Realize it will take some practice to train your body to utilize oxygen in this manner, but the more you work at it, the better you will get. Each time you do it, try and add one more second to each segment of the protocol until you have reached the 30-30-30.
As you start holding the breath for longer periods of time, you’re likely going to notice that you start to experience a clearing of the mind and a calming of the body.
This illustrates the start of the benefits that meditation can bring you. You’ll move into a deeper state of relaxation, one that you have likely not experienced before.
Once you get really good, you can begin stacking the 30-30-30 multiple times over, doing it five or six times before getting up.
If you keep up your practicing, by the time you reach the end of this program, you should be close to, if not fully able, to execute the 30-30-30.
Don’t ever underestimate the power of breathing for controlling your stress, improving your focus, energy, and concentration, and enhancing your health.
Some of the most healing practices out there – meditation, yoga, and tai chi are all based around the practice of breathing. If you are not giving this the attention it deserves, you will not be optimizing your well-being.
Now that you have learned how to deal with stress through breathing exercises you may also want to check out this post here to learn more about yoga.