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Taking Deep Breath to Relax

During stressful periods, one of the most common pieces of advice you might hear is to take a deep breath and allow yourself to calm down. Many mindfulness guides and advisors recommend deep breathing because it is known to help relieve stress, reduce anxiety or tension, and activate the body’s relaxation response.

However, following this advice isn’t always effective for many individuals. If you have an anxiety disorder or a respiratory condition, taking a deep breath can make anxiety worse.

Understanding the impact of breathing on your body and nervous system can help you appreciate the benefits of deep breathing. If you find deep breaths challenging, there are techniques and methods you can learn to achieve similar benefits from breathing exercises.

How Breathing Affects the Nervous System

Studies have confirmed that breathing directly and indirectly affects the central nervous system (CNS). The breathing cycle regulates the amount of oxygen (O₂) and carbon dioxide (CO₂) in the bloodstream. Because the brain requires oxygen to function, regulating breathing directly affects the brain and indirectly affects many other bodily functions.

For example, deep breathing techniques stimulate the vagus nerve, helping the brain send relaxation signals. They can also help the body regulate itself into a calmer state by reducing the heart rate, decreasing muscle tension, and lowering blood pressure levels.

Fast and rapid breathing triggers the sympathetic response system, also known as the fight-flight-freeze response. It primes the brain into a more alert state and helps the rest of the body respond to a potential threat with faster breathing and higher tension.

Taking a Deep Breath Outside Corporate Office

Standard Deep Breathing and Relaxation Techniques

Many breathing exercises and techniques promoting bodily relaxation have been developed to help individuals control stress and anxiety. Most of these exercises require a few minutes daily, making them easily fit into most schedules. Here are some of the most common ones and how to practice them:

Diaphragmatic Breathing

This technique, also called belly breathing, is designed to help people use their diaphragms correctly. To perform this breathing technique, start by lying on your back, with your head on a pillow, with your knees bent slightly. Then, follow these steps:

4-7-8 Breathing

The 4-7-8 breathing technique is based on traditional pranayama, the breathing exercises found in yoga. It is a simple, three-step breathing technique that can be performed in nearly any situation, environment, or posture.

The name of this breathing technique comes from its three simple steps:

Repeat the cycle four to five times or until five minutes have elapsed. The 4-7-8 breathing technique, a rhythmic form of breath control, is beneficial for managing anxiety, diminishing feelings of anger, and helping in falling asleep.

When first attempting this breathing technique, it’s common to experience lightheadedness. Therefore, it’s advisable to practice it while seated or lying down.

Progressive Muscle Relaxation

Progressive Muscle Relaxation (PMR) is a breathing and relaxation technique designed in the 1920s to help ease feelings of anxiety by tensing and relaxing muscles. A complete PMR session should take 10 to 20 minutes and be conducted daily.

To prepare for a PMR session, sit or lie down comfortably, such as in a chair, a sofa, or a bed. Then, follow these steps:

The muscle groups to work through and the tensing methods for each are as follows:

When Deep Breathing Can Be Good Advice

In many cases, deep breathing exercises and relaxation techniques can be beneficial. Here’s when you should consider them:


Taking a Deep Breath at Home

When Can Taking a Deep Breath Do More Harm Than Good?

Although deep breathing exercises and relaxation techniques can be effective for many individuals, they are not suitable for everyone. Specific medical conditions or disorders can make these techniques harmful. Avoid deep breathing techniques if you have any one of these conditions:

How to Get the Benefits of Breathing Exercises Without Deep Breathing Techniques?

If your condition prohibits you from performing deep breathing exercises, your doctor or medical professional may recommend alternative solutions with similar benefits, such as:

Take Control of Your Anxiety with the Mind Health Group

Taking a deep breath can help many people control feelings of anxiety and stress. However, if you find that deep breathing makes your anxiety worse, reach out to the Mind Health Group.

Our team of therapists and medical professionals can assess your situation and provide personalized guidance. We can help you find breathing exercises tailored to your conditions or disorders or research anxiety-free alternatives. Contact us today to learn more or to schedule an appointment.

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