How to Use Deep Breathing to Better Manage Stress

How to Use Deep Breathing to Better Manage Stress

Breathing is something we all do, all day, everyday and without needing to think about it. And so it’s likely something we take for granted and don’t pay much attention. But even though it’s something we typically don’t pay much attention to, we can control our breathing. For example, we can choose to control our breath by slowing it down or speeding it up, or by taking shallow or deep breaths.

Deep breathing is one of several techniques that evoke a relaxation response in your body. When you’re stressed or anxious, your breathing tends to be irregular and shallow and you are not taking in as much air. When you are breathing in this way, your nervous system triggers it’s “fight or flight” response to help you stay safe. Deep breathing using a slow relaxed pattern can help quiet this response or turn down the volume.

Deep breathing involves purposefully taking slower, longer breaths from your stomach to counter the short, rapid breaths that your body does when stressed or anxious. It also goes by the names of diaphragmatic breathing, abdominal breathing, or belly breathing. When you breathe deeply in this way, you relax your stomach muscles while slowly filling the lungs with air, causing your belly to rise. On the exhale,you release all the air out. By focusing your awareness on this process and purposefully slowing and expanding the breath, you can change your breathing and trigger a relaxation response.

Because of this relaxation response, consciously paying attention to our breath and practicing deeper controlled breathing can help us in a variety of ways. It can help to relieve stress or anxiety, improve focus, improve our mood, and even help regulate our blood pressure. Feeling calm and centered immediately after deep breathing is common. Finding times every day to do this breathing practice can also promote a greater sense of well-being overall.

To get started consider watching this video from Nemours Health System demonstrating what deep breathing looks like. You may also find it helpful to use one of the many freely available deep breathing apps.

If you’d like more guidance on using deep breathing and other stress or anxiety coping techniques, consider talking with a therapist. Contact us at (734) 323-4897 or for more information.