Breathing exercises to manage stress | Education Support
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Breathing exercises to manage stress

Breathing exercises to manage stress

Try these breathing exercises to reduce your emotional response in times of stress, anger, frustration or other emotionally arousing situations. Breathing exercises will reduce your emotional response allowing your rational brain to operate more effectively and your cortisol and adrenaline levels to decrease.

For relaxation

  1. Sit or lie down so that you are comfortable. Make sure that if you’re lying down you’re not going to fall asleep
  2. Close your eyes for a moment and then start focusing on your breath. Let your chest and abdomen rise as you inhale and fall again as you exhale
  3. Bring your full attention to this breathing. The focus is on breath in meditation because it’s always with us, always happening, and because it’s a neutral, natural activity
  4. After a few moments, your attention will almost certainly wander and you’ll start thinking-or worrying-about something else. That’s natural and it’s not something to feel annoyed about. When it happens, note the thought, whatever it might be, and let it float through your mind as you bring your attention back to your breathing
  5. Try this for 10 minutes or so to start with. With practice you’ll find the time spent focusing completely on the breath and nothing else will increase. You might want to meditate for longer periods

Another simpler exercise, the 4,7,8 is easy and not visible to others so you can do it prior to stressful things like presenting.

  1. Breathe in for 4 seconds through your nose, counting the breath in your head
  2. Hold for 7 seconds
  3. Breathe out for 8 seconds, through your mouth, counting the breath in your head

For increased energy

  1. Sit up tall and relax your shoulders
  2. Keep your mouth closed and inhale rapidly through your nose with quick, short breaths; then exhale through your mouth
  3. Do this for 10 seconds
  4. Take a 15-30 second break and breathe normally
  5. Repeat several times

The benefits of breathing exercises

  • It relieves anxiety, stress and tension in the body
  • It can help stop panic attacks and calm us down
  • It can help reduce a racing heartbeat
  • It lowers the release of our stress hormones, adrenaline and cortisol
  • It can oxygenate our blood providing more brain power
  • It can reengage our rational brain, our pre frontal cortex, which we need to empathise, listen and ask questions
  • It stops our internal monologue that can cause so much distress e.g. this is going to be catastrophic, I am going to fail
  • It can regulate our emotions and reduce feeling angry, frustrated or other heightened states
  • It can reduce and manage pain

What can you do?