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September 12, 2022

5 Breathing Techniques to Manage Stress and Reduce Anxiety

Post By:
Patricia Alexis
In-House Contributor
The Daily Drip
Guest Contributor:

Chances are, you’ve been stressed in the past 24 hours. If you haven’t, just flip on the news… or scroll through social media… or argue with a family member… or sit in rush hour traffic while you’re already running late. (You get the picture.)

But when that stress snowballs into anxiety, the effect can be suffocating. 

Anxiety looks different for everyone. For you, it might be a tight chest and tense shoulders. For your best friend, it might be racing thoughts and restless nights. For your child, it might be hyperventilating panic attacks.

While we’re surrounded by anxiety-fuel, we’re also innately equipped with a secret weapon. If you can believe it, quelling your anxious feelings can be as easy as breathing. (Literally!)

These five breathing techniques have been scientifically proven to reduce stress and manage symptoms of anxiety. They’re simple, easy to remember, and can be practiced anywhere. 

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Box Breathing

What To Do:

  • Sit upright in a comfortable position.
  • Inhale through your nose for a slow, intentional count of four.
  • Hold your breath while slowly counting to four.
  • Release all the air in your lungs for a slow count of four by exhaling through your mouth.
  • Hold your breath while counting slowly to four.
  • Repeat.

Why It Works:

When our body is in fight-or-flight mode, our breathing naturally gets faster. By intentionally timing your breaths, your nervous system will gradually relax.

Abdomen Breathing

What To Do:

  • Sit in a relaxed position with your knees bent, or lie down on the floor with your neck and knees supported by pillows.
  • Gently place one hand over your heart and the other on your upper stomach.
  • Inhale and exhale through your nose, noticing which hand moves more.
  • Engage your stomach muscles to support your breath; the hand over your stomach should move more, while the one over your chest should be more still.
  • Inhale slowly through your nose and exhale through your mouth.
  • Repeat.

Why It Works:

Supporting your breath with your diaphragm (the muscle just beneath the lungs) actually helps your body breathe more easily. Increasing your oxygen levels helps decrease cortisol, the hormone responsible for stress.

Mindful Breathing

What To Do:

  • Relax in a comfortable position with your back supported.
  • Choose a calming, grounding focus to keep in your mind. (This might be a prayer, a short phrase, a positive word, a relaxing sound-- whatever works for you.)
  • Breathe in and out, slowly and intentionally.
  • If your mind wanders from your chosen focus, gently remind yourself to return with a deep breath.

Why It Works:

Mindfulness practices have been proven to reduce anxiety by keeping our focus in the present moment. Creating internal safety allows our bodies to relax and truly rest.

Birthday Candle Breathing

What To Do:

  • Sit in a comfortable, upright position.
  • Inhale normally, noticing the breath in your lungs.
  • Through pursed lips, exhale slowly (like blowing out a birthday candle).
  • Repeat.

Why It Works:

If your anxiety is causing you to hyperventilate, focusing on exhaling combats it. By balancing your breathing, your body will process oxygen better than by taking too many short, panicked breaths.

Humming Breathing

What To Do:

  • Sit or stand with your back straight. 
  • Inhale through your nose for at least 5 seconds.
  • Keeping your mouth closed, make a “hmmm” sound until you run out of breath.
  • Repeat.

Why It Works:

The combination of breath and vibration helps regulate the parasympathetic nervous system. This eases the tension being stored in the body and the mind, all while calming any overactive areas and toning the vagus nerve.

Your mental health matters. The Daily Drip is proud to support you with wellness information and resources; however, we are no substitute for medical advice. If you struggle with frequent or chronic anxiety, seek the help of a medical professional.