When it comes to managing anxiety and stress, breathing exercises are a powerful way to regain control of your nervous system. Learning how to breathe properly can help you reduce your stress, clear your mind, and provide a sense of calmness within yourself. When anxious or stressed, many people hold their breath or take rapid breaths, resulting in very little oxygen intake. Breathing exercises can help you become more aware of how your breath affects your state of mind and how you can use it to soothe your nervous system.
We have compiled a list of simple exercises that can be done in the comfort of your own home, so there's no need to go anywhere or sign up for anything. Practice these breathing exercises so when you experience anxiety, they come more naturally. Regular breathing exercises can also help you stay calm so anxiety is less likely to strike.
1) Breathe In Through Nose, Exhale Out Mouth
Breathing in through the nose and out through the mouth is a simple technique that introduces calm to the nervous system. Adding sounds (such as a sigh of relief) to your exhales can also further strengthen the impact the exercise has. You can do this while sitting or lying down.
- Breathe in through the nose for 10 seconds.
- Release your breath slowly through the mouth making a "sighing" sound or any other sound that feels natural to you.
- Repeat this exercise 10 times to calm you and help you relax.
2) Deep Breathing
Taking rapid short breaths is something we sometimes do without even realizing it. Shallow breathing can make us feel light-headed and exacerbate anxiety. Therefore, it is important to train your body to take deeper breaths.
- Inhale for 4 seconds.
- Exhale for 8 seconds.
- Increase the length of breath while maintaining a 1 to 2 ratio (ex: inhale for 5 seconds, exhale for 10 seconds).
3) Belly Breathing
Most people breathe only into their chest which can result in shortness of breath. This exercise will help you learn to breathe using the full capacity of your lungs.
- Lay down on your back.
- Place one hand on your heart and the other on your stomach.
- Close your eyes and take a couple of deep breaths.
- Take a deep breath in through your nose and feel the air traveling all the way down into your belly, filling it up first and then filling up your chest.
- Hold that breath for 3 seconds.
- Exhale slowly through your nose feeling the air exit the belly and then the chest.
- Repeat this exercise six times.
4) Visual Breathing
- Find a comfortable position where your chest and belly have plenty of room to expand.
- Inhale on a count of six.
- Exhale on a count of six.
- With every inhale, visualize a circle expanding.
- Visualize the breath circling your stress or worried thought.
- With every exhale visualize the circle contracting and leaving your body with the stress or worried thought.
- Repeat several times.
5) Square or Box Breathing
Another form of visual breathing is referred to as square or box breathing.
- Imagine a box/square in your mind, or visualize an object (your cell phone for example).
- Breathe in slowly, counting to four, while visualizing drawing a line down the first side of the box.
- Visualize drawing a line across the second side while holding your breath for a count of four.
- On the third side, exhale slowly counting to four.
- On the last side, pause for four.
- Repeat this process four times.
Manage Anxiety & Stress With These Daily Breathing Exercises
Unfortunately, there is no magic fix for anxiety. It can have a negative impact on your life, and it doesn't just go away in a day. But breathing exercises can help you manage it. Breathing exercises are scientifically proven to calm the body. If you are feeling anxious, breathing exercises can take your mind away from whatever is making you feel anxious and place your focus on a simple task: breathing in and out evenly. Staying committed to these exercises is sure to keep your nervous system in check. Simple daily practices like these add up and contribute to greater well-being.
For additional support, visit our Mental Health Resources page for a comprehensive guide to resources and information for parents, children, teens, and adults.
Dakota Family Services is a highly trusted and respected outpatient clinic providing psychology, psychiatry, and therapy in North Dakota. Our community of compassionate mental health professionals help children, adolescents, and adults improve their overall mental health and well-being through a personalized approach, trusted expertise, and unconditional presence. We offer in-office counseling in Fargo and Minot—and online therapy for those who prefer to meet from the comfort of their own home.