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Mental Health

Apr 30 2023

Breathe in, Breathe out: Breathing techniques for stress relief

relaxed relieved african-american woman inhaling air and smiling with closed eyes

Stress is a common experience in today’s fast-paced world. It affects our physical, emotional, and mental health. While there are many ways to manage stress, breathing techniques are some of the most effective and easily accessible methods. In this article, we’ll explore some breathing techniques that can help you reduce stress and improve your overall well-being.


Diaphragmatic Breathing

Also known as belly breathing, this technique involves breathing deeply into your belly instead of your chest. It helps you relax and calm your nervous system. Diaphragmatic breathing is an essential technique for those who experience anxiety, panic attacks, or other related conditions. Here are the steps to follow:

  • Sit comfortably or lie down flat on your back.
  • Place one hand on your chest and the other on your belly.
  • Inhale slowly through your nose, and feel your belly expand.
  • Exhale slowly through your mouth, and feel your belly contract.
  • Repeat for 5-10 minutes.

Box Breathing

This technique involves breathing in a rhythmic pattern of four counts: inhale, hold, exhale, hold. It helps you regulate your breathing and calm your mind. Box breathing is a popular technique used by Navy SEALs and other high-stress professionals to maintain focus and calm under pressure. Here’s how to do it:

  • Sit comfortably and close your eyes.
  • Inhale through your nose for four counts.
  • Hold your breath for four counts.
  • Exhale through your mouth for four counts.
  • Hold your breath for four counts.
  • Repeat for 5-10 minutes.

Alternate Nostril Breathing

This technique involves breathing through one nostril at a time while closing the other. It helps you balance your energy and calm your mind. Alternate nostril breathing is a popular technique in yoga and meditation practices. Here are the steps to follow:

  • Sit comfortably and close your eyes.
  • Place your right thumb on your right nostril and inhale through your left nostril.
  • Use your ring finger to close your left nostril and hold your breath for a few seconds.
  • Release your thumb and exhale through your right nostril.
  • Inhale through your right nostril and hold your breath.
  • Use your thumb to close your right nostril and exhale through your left nostril.
  • Repeat for 5-10 minutes.

Progressive Muscle Relaxation

Progressive muscle relaxation (PMR) is a technique that involves tensing and relaxing various muscle groups to help you release physical and mental tension. PMR is often used to reduce anxiety, improve sleep, and manage chronic pain. Here are the steps to follow:

  • Sit comfortably or lie down on your back.
  • Start by tensing the muscles in your toes and feet for a few seconds, then release and relax.
  • Move to your calves and thighs, tense and hold for a few seconds, then release and relax.
  • Continue tensing and relaxing each muscle group, including your abdomen, chest, arms, shoulders, neck, and face.
  • Repeat for 5-10 minutes.


Incorporating breathing techniques into your daily routine can help you manage stress and improve your overall well-being. The techniques mentioned in this article are simple, effective, and can be practiced anywhere. However, it’s important to note that breathing techniques should not replace professional help or treatment for severe stress and anxiety. If you’re experiencing chronic stress or anxiety, it’s essential to seek help from a mental health professional.

In addition to breathing techniques, it’s also important to maintain a healthy lifestyle, including regular exercise, a balanced diet, and adequate sleep. These lifestyle factors can significantly impact your stress levels and overall well-being.

When practicing breathing techniques, it’s best to start slowly and gradually increase your time and intensity. Consistency is key, and practicing daily can help you build a habit and reap the benefits of these techniques.

Finally, if you’re new to breathing techniques or are unsure where to start, there are many resources available, including guided meditation apps and online tutorials. These can provide guidance and support as you begin your breathing practice.

In conclusion, effective breathing techniques are a simple yet powerful tool for managing stress and improving overall well-being. Incorporating techniques such as diaphragmatic breathing, box breathing, alternate nostril breathing, and progressive muscle relaxation into your daily routine can reduce stress, calm your mind, and improve your physical and emotional health. Remember to start slowly, be consistent, and seek professional help if needed.

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