Free Stress-Management Tool: Your Breath

By Shane Power, Watertree Health® President…

breathing graphicIt’s hard not being stressed these days given we’re still experiencing the coronavirus crisis. To help reduce anxiety, experts have advised that we keep as normal a schedule as possible, get our eight hours of sleep, and maintain a healthy diet and exercise regimen. I have also been researching the benefits of meditation and breathing techniques to combat stress, such as the one developed by Dr. Andrew Weil, which uses a 4-7-8 principle: you breath in for 4 seconds, hold your breath for 7 seconds and exhale for 8 seconds.

I learned that, when we’re stressed, we usually take quick, short, shallow breaths (known as “overbreathing”). Usually this change in breathing is subtle but sometimes it’s more obvious—we hyperventilate. Overbreathing can make you feel even more anxious because you might experience a racing heart, dizziness, or headaches. Sometimes, it might even make you feel tired because you’re not breathing efficiently. The pattern of a breathing technique helps you correct the overbreathing that may occur when you’re feeling anxious.

From my online research, I also compiled some tips that you may want to consider before you get started with a breathing technique. As always, please consult with your doctor before beginning any new program.

  • Sit upright in a chair so you can increase the capacity of your lungs to fill with air. Support your arms on the side-arms of the chair or put them in your lap. This will help relax your shoulders.
    • If it’s too challenging to sit in a chair, lie down on your back on the floor with one hand on your heart and the other on your abdomen. The hand on your heart should barely move while the one on your belly should rise as you fill your lungs with air.
  • Breathe from your diaphragm or belly—in through your nose, out through your mouth.
  • Before repeating a breathing technique, breathe as you normally would for a few seconds. This will help prevent hyperventilation or lightheadedness.

It is recommended that, if you can, perform a breathing technique for at least five minutes twice a day. Also, experts note that it’s not necessary for you to feel stressed to practice. In fact, they state that you may want to do it when you’re calm so you can be more in tune with the breathing pattern. Once you’ve mastered a breathing technique, I hope that you’ll be able to use it during the coronavirus crisis and in any future situations that cause stress and anxiety.