Inhaling and exhaling is such an automatic action that most people don’t even think about it. You just do it all day long without a second thought. But it turns out paying attention to your breath can do more than just bring oxygen into your body—it can also be the key to feeling less stressed. So how do you do it? Follow these four tips:
1. Use your diaphragm. When you’re stressed, you might notice that you’re breathing mostly in your chest as opposed to further down. But chest breathing can lead to even more tension and anxiety, causing a negative cycle. On the other hand, breathing through your diaphragm can help you feel more relaxed. You can do this by making sure your abdomen fills up with air as you inhale (if you place a hand just below your navel and another on your chest, you should feel the bottom hand move more).
2. Bring in as much air as you can. Known as deep breathing, this is when you keep inhaling until your stomach is fully extended. It brings the most oxygen into your body—which is key, since a lack of oxygen can make you feel more anxious. As you breathe more and more deeply, your heartbeat will slow and your blood pressure will drop.
3. Breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth. One of the most important steps is to really focus on your breath—this takes your mind off whatever is stressing you out and lets you have more control over your breathing. An easy way to do this is to inhale slowly through your nose, then exhale slowly through your mouth. In fact, this is a common way people meditate, which is great at reducing stress.
4. Try a breathing cadence. Ready to go one step further? You can use all of the above tips while also following a specific pattern. One to try is to inhale for four seconds, hold your breath for seven seconds, and exhale for eight seconds. This 4-7-8 cadence can help you feel calmer in no time.
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