Whether you’re nervous about an upcoming interview or overwhelmed by school, stress is a common factor in the lives of everyone, every day.
Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic early last year, adults throughout the United States are reporting their highest stress levels to date.
Lucky for you, there are lots of different breathing techniques you can do from home to help relieve stress. Different things work for everyone and there is no one-size-fits-all technique. What works for your best friends, may not work for you, and what worked last week may not work this week.
Thus, it’s important to try a variety of options and figure out what works best for you.
Here are a few easy tactics you can try from home.
Table of Contents
Breathing Exercises to Relieve Stress
Ujjayi is one of the most widely-practiced pranayama breathing techniques. It consists of an audible breath with a very slight constriction in the back of your throat.
To begin, come into a comfortable seated position. This could be on the floor with your legs crossed, on your bed, or in a chair. Just make sure your spine is erect.
Take a few moments to notice your natural breath before you begin.
When you’re ready, allow your throat to constrict slightly as you inhale and exhale. Continue to breathe in and out through the nose, but the constriction in the throat has created a very slight resistance to the breath.
As you do, your breath will begin to make a soft susurration, like the sound of ocean waves, or Darth Vader.
This resistance allows you to gain control over your breath. The constriction should be enough to anchor your breath and add sound and intensity, but be careful not to force the throat closed.
4 7 8 Breathing
4 7 8 breathing is a common technique used to relieve stress and anxiety by increasing blood circulation through the body.
It’s very simple. Breathe in for 4 seconds, hold and pause for 7 seconds, then exhale for 8 seconds.
Try this exercise at least twice daily to ease the stresses of the day.
Alternate Nostril Breathing
Alternate Nostril Breathing is one of the most widely known breath techniques, which works to calm a person down through distraction and a sense of control. In Sanskrit, it’s known as Nadi Shodhana pranayama, translating to “energy channel cleansing breath.”
The technique is known to improve focus, restore balance, and remove toxins and stress.
To begin, find a comfortable place where you can remove all distractions.
Place your right hand over your face. Stretch your index and middle fingers towards your forehead, pressing lightly against the center. Meanwhile, hold your thumb and ring finger on either side of your nose.
Then, starting with your right nostril close, close your eyes, and inhale fully and slowly through your left nostril.
At the top of your breath, close the left nostril and exhale fully through your right.
Repeat this process for several minutes, inhaling through the left nostril when closing the right and exhaling through the right nostril when closing the left.
When you are ready, take a long, full breath in through both nostrils and exhale all of the air out of your lungs. Allow your breath to return to a soft, easy pace.
Box Breathing is a very simple technique to take a step back and focus on aligning your breath with your energy.
Find a comfortable seated position and begin with a full, natural, breathe.
To begin, inhale for a full count of 4. Then, pause a hold for a full 4 seconds before exhaling for a count of 4.
This exercise is a great way to heighten concentration and productivity while simultaneously relieving stress. Use has been reported by everyone from U.S. Navy SEALs, to children.
Bhastrika, or “bellows breath,” is a traditional breathing exercise that utilized the abdominal muscles and diaphragm to energize the body and clarify the mind.
It is a form of deep belly breathing, or forcefully exhaling the air from your body.
To practice Bhastrika, begin by sitting up straight in a comfortable position.
Then, start with a forceful, sharp exhale. Continue this with an exaggerated, full inhale. The goal is to breathe quickly and forcefully but without rushing. Each cycle, in and out, should take about 1 second.
The goal is to repeat this cycle 3 times for about 20 seconds each. For beginners, you may want to start with 10 seconds cycles and work your way up. Make sure to take a full, natural breathe between each cycle to reset your breath and intentions.
Stepping Back to Breath
Stepping Back is one of the most important, yet easiest techniques you can master.
It’s all about paying attention to your breath to help increase health, peace of mind, and happiness.
For this exercise, all you have to do is take a moment away from whatever you’re doing to dedicate a few moments of the day to your breath.
It’s simple. Take a long, deep inhale, and then exhale with a loud sigh.
Repeat the inhale-exhale two or three times, especially in situations of high stress.
When you’re ready, after your last sigh, allow your breath to return to normal. Pay attention to the motion of the air, but don’t force your breath to take any specific form.
Now I am Breathing In
Now I am Breathing In is the perfect exercise for beginners and is perfect for a workday as it only takes a few moments.
There are no strict rules to this exercise. The goal is simply to bring awareness to your breath by silently repeating a mantra to yourself.
When you inhale, think: “Now I am breathing in.”
When you exhale, think: “Now I am breathing out.”
For all of these exercises, it’s essential to listen to your body and be mindful of how stress is impacting you. Try one of all of these techniques and see what works best.