deep breathing

Pause and Breathe: Deep Breathing Guide


Nov 7, 2023

Take a minute…inhale…hold…exhale…and breathe…

It is no doubt that life can get stressful. We can become anxious, panicky and need a break. However, something we can forget to do is to take a break to do just the one simple thing we can’t live without…breathing.

Breathing techniques have been commonly a powerful tool and method of stress relief, helping anxiety and improving sleep.

In this blog we will discuss everything you need to know about the different techniques of deep breathing that are the most helpful to help you through your voyage to a better mind, body, and life. practical techniques to incorporate it into your daily routine.

What is deep breathing?

Deep breathing is a relaxation meditation method derived from yoga. Its main aim is to calm the mind, body and heart rate.  

The purpose of deep breathing exercises:

Most of the time when we experience stress, nerves or anxiety, our body hits a fight or flight response. This bodily response results in shallow breathing. Shallow breathing can be also imagined as a spasm in the chest resulting in short and rapid breaths. Having long terms stress can result in more frequent shallow breathing. This can then lead to more serious effects such as respiratory conditions and cardiovascular problems. In simple terms, it is important to find techniques to reduce shallow breathing before it’s too late.

Now that we have gone through the importance of deep breathing, what are the practical techniques we can incorporate in our everyday lives?

Breathing techniques:

There are different ways of breathing? Yes, believe it or not, there are a few different methods to help prevent shallow breathing and cope with your stress, anxiety, and panic.

Box breathing

First up is box breathing. This method involves inhaling, holding your breath, exhaling, and holing your breath again, repeating this until you feel more relaxed.

Let’s have a go together:

  1. To begin box breathing, first take a deep breath in through your nose for 4 seconds.
  2. Pause your breathing and hold your breath for 4 seconds.
  3. Take a slow, deep breath out through your mouth for 4 seconds.
  4. Hold your breath and rest for 4 seconds before repeating step 1, 2 and 3 again.

Another way of thinking of this technique is to view each step as the side of a box. For a visual guide of this technique, refer to the diagram below:

4-7-8 breathing

Next up is the 4-7-8 technique which can come in different variations including the 5 for 5 or the “smell a rose, blow a candle” technique. This method is more advanced than the box breathing, and the other variations named above.

The basis of this technique is to control and slow down your breathing through inhalation, holding and then exhalation and holding.

Let’s go through these steps together:

  1. Begin by inhaling through your nose for around 4 seconds.
  2. After, hold your breath for a count of 7 seconds.
  3. To exhale, purse your lips and breathe out slowly from your mouth for 8 seconds.
  4. Repeat the above steps several time until you feel calmer and more relaxed.

Belly breathing

Moving onto belly breathing, also known as diaphragm breathing or abdominal breathing, which is a more interesting technique.

This form of breathing is one of the most effective techniques of deep breathing. It applies focus onto breathing from your diaphragm. This encourages you to inhale higher amounts of oxygen into your body - equally, it also removes more carbon dioxide out of the body. As a result, it slows down your breathing and heart rate, putting less pressure on your heart and cardiovascular system.

So, let’s take a look at how to do this:

  1. First of all, start by placing one hand comfortably on your abdomen and place your other hand on your chest.
  2. Then, take a deep breath in, through your nose. Here you should notice your abdomen rising, whilst doing this, keep your chest still.
  3. Take a slow, deep breath out through your mouth and you should feel your abdomen go down.
  4. When using this technique, you should put your focus on the movement of your abdomen rising and falling simultaneously with your breathing.

Note: if you have bowel problems, you must check with a GP to ensure this is okay for you to do.

Alternate nostril breathing

Finally, we have alternate nostril breathing. This form of deep breathing is also recognised as a form of yoga and meditation. Alternating nostril breathing can also promote relaxation in the body and can sometimes help you feel grounded and centre your mind to focus on your breathing to relieve your stresses and anxiety.

Let’s have a go together:

  1. Sit comfortably and with your right thumb, begin to close your right nostril. Take a deep breath in and inhale through your left nostril.
  2. Swap nostrils by holding and closing your left nostril with your right ring finger, release your finger off your right nostril, and then exhale.
  3. Then, take a deep breath in through your right nostril, close it with your finger, and exhale deeply through your left nostril.
  4. Repeat the above steps, focusing on the rhythm of your breath.

Top tips for deep breathing

  1. Find a comfortable, quiet, and relaxing place to either sit, lay down or rest at ease.

Staying in a relaxing environment can set yourself to begin your relaxation to reduce your stress and anxiety levels.

However, it is understandable this can be difficult if you are in a public area or you are beginning to feel stressed in the middle of work, a class, or whilst you are in a busy setting.

To tackle this simply see if you can sit comfortably.  

  1. Exhale with pursed lips

Exhaling with pursed lips is when you breathe out through your mouth whilst puckering your lips (like you are blowing out a candle). This type of exhaling is most effective due to this form allowing for your airways to open out more. As a result, this method allows for more carbon dioxide to be exhaled out.

  1. Relax your muscles

When you are stressed or anxious, it is common for your muscles to tense up. This is your body’s way of preparing for a “flight or flight” response to guard your body against harm.

To increase effectiveness of deep breathing, try relaxing and dropping your shoulders down resting your arms by your side to relieve some of this tension.

Benefits of deep breathing

Now we have gone through all the different types of deep breathing techniques, what is the effect of this on our body and mind?

1. Stress and anxiety reduction:

Deep breathing triggers the relaxation in your body. As a result, reducing the production of your body’s stress hormones like cortisol. This leads to a sense of calm and improved mental clarity.

Stress can also deteriorate your immune system. Deep breathing can help reduce your stress levels and so can boost your immune system, making you more resilient to illnesses.

2. Improves oxygenation:

Deep breaths increase the oxygen that is supplied to your body’s cells. As a result, deep breathing enhances your overall bodily functions including the functioning of your brain as well as boosting your overall energy levels. In addition to this, you may also feel more focused and able to concentrate and think more clearly.

3. Lowered Heart Rate and Blood Pressure:

Deep breathing can help lower your heart rate and blood pressure. It controls and regulates your breathing to promote good cardiovascular health.

4. Better sleep:

Practicing deep breathing regularly before sleeping can help you relax and fall asleep faster which in essence improves the quality of your sleep.

5. Reduce muscle tension and pain

As we know stress and anxiety can cause your muscles to tense up, deep breathing can also reduce muscle tension by oxygenating your muscles and releasing the built-up carbon dioxide in your body. As a result, it can reduce pain.

By incorporating deep breathing into your daily routine, you can reduce stress, improve focus, and enhance your overall quality of life. So, take a moment right now to pause, inhale deeply, and let go of any tension with each exhale. Your body, mind and heart will thank you for it.

Need some professional help?

Sometimes deep breathing may just be trying to cope with a deeper routed problem, this being other mental health conditions. For example:

Sometimes it may be more beneficial to receive specialist help from a registered therapist to help you deal with and overcome your problems.

Here at Head Agenda, we offer a range of services to help guide, cope and improve your mental health. To learn more about the services we offer and help with, visit our services page.

Is it something else? If you are not sure what services suits your needs the best, enquire today and speak to a member of our team.

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