Say Ah: A 5 Minute Guided Breathing Guide

Do you know the health benefits of deep breathing?

Tackling stress isn’t an easy feat. Instead of using the TV to zone out at the end of each day, use guided breathing techniques to reduce your stress levels.

Studies show that shallow breathing, a common practice of breathing only from your chest, can increase tension and anxiety, while deep breathing improves oxygen exchange, slowing your heartbeat and lowering or stabilizing blood pressure.

In an effort to improve your stress and anxiety levels, the American Institute of Stress encourages practicing 20 to 30 minutes of deep breathing each day. This form of systematic, deep breathing helps quiet your mind by drawing awareness away from the stressors in your life.

The first steps to deep breathing include finding a quiet, comfortable place to sit. Practice taking a deep breath by inhaling slowly through your nose, allowing your chest and lower stomach to rise, and exhaling slowly through your mouth. Continue your deep breathing while visualizing an image or focusing on a word to help you relax.

Next, turn your practice into a habit. Create a routine to lower stress in your life. According to the American Psychological Association, stress can have many harmful effects on body systems.

  • Musculoskeletal system: Stress causes the muscles in your body to tense
  • Respiratory system: Stress leads to heavier breathing
  • Cardiovascular system: Short-term stress contributes to increased heart rate and stronger contractions of the heart muscles
  • Endocrine system: Stress triggers your automatic nervous system, releasing stress hormones
  • Gastrointestinal system: Stress impacts your esophagus, stomach, and bowel movements, causing you to eat more or less, feel “butterflies” or have disrupted digestion
  • Nervous system: Stress causes your sympathetic nervous system to generate the “fight-or-flight” response

Set time aside during the day to practice relaxation techniques. Meditate during your commute to work, if you take public transportation, or during your wait at the doctor’s office. Focus on your breathing, rather than on a TV or a phone screen, during a workout or the walk to your car.

Activities such as yoga and tai chi encourage mindful breathing, reducing your response to stress. Find a routine that works for you, and begin a more stress-free life today.

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