Congrats for making it this far into the year, you're doing a great job, whether it be in school, work, personal goals, and everything in between!
But I'm sure that along the way things haven't always been a walk in the park. I, for one, have had some exhausting days, bad days, and down right lonesome days. I sometimes forget to take a break and just sit back and breathe. So, as a friendly reminder to myself and to you, who's reading this, take a moment to breathe. Relax. And forget about all the things that are annoying us, saddening us, or weighing down on us. I found that the breathing techniques below really helped me mentally during midterms and will definitely add this to my self-care routine! Try it out and keep reading below to find some pretty amazing breathing exercises to lighten the load on your shoulders. Happy breathing!
Precaution: Breathing exercises are generally safe and is relaxation inducing. Though, if you have COPD or another type of lung disease, please speak with your doctor about using breathing exercises in your daily lifestyle.
1. The Basic Breath Focus Technique
Do you have tension, anxiety, or are feeling overwhelmed (maybe stressed)? Well, this one is good for "letting go" of these feelings and to just tend to yourself. This deep breathing technique starts with focusing on a word or phrase that makes you feel happy, relaxed, or safe. For example, family, peace, or let go, but the options are endless. And as you continue your breath focus techniques, start with a 10-minute session and then gradually lengthen your sessions until at least 20-minutes.
Steps to take:
1. Sit or lie down comfortably.
2. Become aware of your breathing and focus on it (you don't have to try to change your way of breathing).
3. Become aware of different types of breathing (i.e. shallow, normal, deep breathes). Practice and compare. They feel different right?
4. Now, just practice your deep breathing for a few minutes. Placing one hand below your belly button, keeping your belly relaxed. Notice how it rises and falls with each inhale and exhale.
5. Let out a sigh with each exhale.
6. Then, begin combining your deep breathes with imagery and your focus word/phrase, which will support relaxation. As an example, as you inhale imagine it brings a wave of peace and calm. Mentally saying, "Inhaling peace." And as you exhale, you're washing away tension and anxiety. Focusing on, "Exhaling tension and anxiety."
Have you ever had thoughts racing through your mind as you're trying to fall asleep? And counting sheep isn't cutting it? This breathing exercise can help send you to the land of dreams. Focusing on deep breathing helps induce relaxation in your body, causing it to lull you to sleep.
Steps to take:
1. Exhale through your mouth and then close it.
2. Inhale through your nose for 4 counts.
3. Hold your breathe in for 7 counts.
4. And release it in 8 counts (hence 4-7-8)!
5. Easy right! Now, just repeat this for at least three times or until you drift off to sleep.
3. Diaphragmatic Breathing
Diaphragmatic breathing, or belly breathing can help you use your diaphragm properly. Use this exercise when you're feeling relaxed and rested. And you can do this for 5-10 minutes, 3-4 times a day. This type of technique gets easier and more natural with practice, so don't feel discouraged when in the beginning you may feel tired from breathing from your diaphragm!
Steps to take:
1. Start by either sitting up with your shoulders back, or lie on your back with your knees slightly bent and your head on a pillow.
2. Place one hand on your chest and the other on your belly, specifically below your rib cage, allowing you to feel the movement of your diaphragm.
3. Slowly breathe in deeply for 2 counts, noticing that your belly should expand/press into your hand.
4. Keep your other hand as still as possible.
5. Then, exhale slowly using pursed lips.
4. Pursed Lip Breathing
And lastly, for this type of breathing technique, you can use this at any time! Use it whenever you need to slow down your pace of breathing, through means of effort in each breath. And you can practice this 4-5 times a day to learn the breathing pattern.
Steps to take:
1. Relax your neck and shoulders.
2. Keeping your mouth closed, inhale slowly through your nose for 2 counts.
3. Then, pucker or purse your lips up (as if you were going to whistle) and slowly exhale for 4 counts.
4. Repeat this a few times or until your breathing has slowed down.