3 Deep Breathing Exercises to Try when Stress & Anxiety Arises


Feeling stressed? Take a deep breath.

Deep breathing is one of the best ways to lower stress in the body. It immediately stimulates the vagus nerve and puts a brake on the “fight or flight” response. Stimulating the vagus nerve also activates your relaxation response, reducing your heart rate and blood pressure – doesn’t that sound lovely.

Breathing exercises are easy to learn. You can do them whenever you want, and you don’t need any special tools or equipment. I do a deep breathing exercise when I sense my anxiety rising – hello uneasiness in my stomach and a deep pressure lurking in my chest.

Here are some simple breathing exercises:

1. Box Breathing 

Start by inhaling to a count of four and holding air in your lungs for another count of four. Exhale at the same, again holding your lungs empty for a count of four. Try to repeat this pattern for 3 to 5 minutes.

Visualizing a box is a helpful anchor for your attention and quickly allows you to get into the flow of rhythmic breathing.

Got little ones at home and want to try some deep breathing with them? Box breathing is a great visualizing exercise for adults and children. Have a listen to Cecilia’s box breathing exercise and try it out for yourself! Click here to listen.

2. Diaphragmatic Breathing

Start by getting comfortable, sit in a chair or lie down on a flat surface. Place one hand on your chest and the other on your stomach. When you breathe in slowly through your nose, notice your stomach rising. As you exhale through your mouth, notice your navel sinking toward your spine. Try to remain as still as possible.

3. Take Five

This one is a really simple and quick exercise. Slow down and take 5 deep breaths. Inhale through your nose and exhale through your mouth.

Next time you are feeling stressed or sense your anxiety creeping, remind yourself to “Take Five” and proceed to take 5 deep breaths.

Try these exercises for yourself and see which ones work best for you!


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