Breathing exercise for anxiety and stress

Take a deep breath and relax is so common a mantra that most of us miss its core message.

Focused, controlled breathing has the power to defuse anxiety & stress and to boost energy. In fact, the notion of breathing as therapy has ancient roots in Pranayama, an aspect of yoga that means “expansion and control of cosmic power.”

It’s no secret that breathing is essential for:

  • Sustaining Life – the oxygen you take in is picked up by the hemoglobin in the blood and distributed to all of the body’s trillions of cells where it is then used to fuel the cells and release energy.
  • Cleansing inner body systems – balancing levels of Ph, CO2 & O2 for normal body functioning.

During stressful situations we rarely notice how the pressures of the moment keeps our mind occupied on almost everything but our physiological function – breathing. Consequently leading to irregular and short breaths leaving us in an unhealthy state of being. When we are in this state our mental and physical state diminishes leading to unsound decisions, behaviour and heightened anxiety states.

By becoming aware of this and practicing correct breath technique, stressful situations may be handled better and your overall mental and physical health will be improved.

“If I had to limit my advice on healthier living to just one tip, it would be simply to learn how to breathe correctly.” – Andrew Weil, M.D.

Breathe through your belly not your chest!

Breathing properly starts at your belly. Not your chest.

Alveoli, where gas exchange occurs between oxygen & your blood supply, are more densly packed at the bottom of your lungs.

Chest breathing is shallow breathing and mobalises the top part of your lungs leading to less oxygen consumed by your body. Using your belly helps move the diaphragm (helpful for breathing and respiration) like a pump pulling & squizzing the lungs. This gets more oxygen into your blood supply and ultimately into your body.

The Breathing Technique – the 1-4-2 ratio

There are many different techniques which aim to teach you this art of breathing properly. In my opinion, the simplest and easiest to implement is the 1-4-2 ratio. Here’s how it’s done:

1. Inhale in through your nose all the way down to the bottom of the belly for 4 seconds (ratio 1-4-2). Let the belly rise. You may hold your hand on your belly to make sure you are breathing properly letting your belly rise.
2. Hold for 16 seconds (ratio 1-4-2).
3. Exhale out through parted lips (ratio 1-4-2) for 8 seconds. Your belly should fall back down.
4. Repeat steps 1-3, 10 times, 3 times a day.

This technique of breathing through your belly is often refered to as Diaphragmatic breathing and used to treat hyperventilation and high levels of anxiety.

Walking – your lymphatic system & breathing

We should all aim to walk at least 30 minutes per day. Walking stimulates your lymphatic system to move toxins out of your body and is also a great way to burn those unwanted calories. Add a correct breathing technique to this and you are on your way to a healthier you.

While walking you can vary your breathing pattern so that you inhale using short breaths 4 times in a row for each step you take and exhale 4 times for each step. Do this for around 15 minutes and it will change your current mental state.
There is a University research article which described these 4×4 technique – I’ll try to locate it and update this post soon.

Forming this new habit

You may be thinking, but Ernest do I have to always conentrate on my breathing. I already have a busy schedule… Like most things in life, there is a solution.

Research has shown that it takes 21 days to form a new habit. So if you practise this breathing technique “daily” for around 30 minutes, after 21 days this new habit will became an automatic routine. Just like learning to drive a car required effort at first before it too became an automatic routine.

So, change your life today and start feeling better and full of energy – Breath.

Happy Breathing!

Recommended further reading

Author: Ernest W. Semerda

Veryfi cofounder (#YC W17 cohort) ~ mobile automation software designed for the construction workforce. GSDfaster founder ~ be more productive. Follow me on Twitter: @ernestsemerda