It’s the first thing I forget about when I’m stressed or anxious: My breath. When I feel overwhelmed with whatever is happening in life, I seem to forget about my breathing. In a way, I end up taking it for granted.
This is the brilliance of the human body. The systems essential for keeping us alive – the heart and the circulatory system, the lungs and our respiratory system – are all done non-consciously. We don’t need to think about them in order for them to work. They work automatically.
The power of deep breathing
Whenever I make a conscious effort to monitor my breathing, it feels like I’m giving myself a natural feel-good pill. It still amazes me how calm I feel after I take a few deep breaths. It’s by far one of the best techniques I have in my toolbox for managing stress.
There’s good science to support the practice of methodical, diaphragmatic breathing on reducing stress. When I do it myself, my breathing becomes slower, deeper, and the oxygen entering my body instantaneously reaches my brain. This allows me to think more clearly. My mind and body are happy at the same time.
4-4-4 Breathing Technique
There are a variety of breathing exercises that you can use to manage your stress, but the one I use most often is what I call the 4-4-4 breathing technique. Here’s how I use it:
- Breathe in deeply with your nose for a count of four
- Hold your breath for a count of four
- Exhale for at least a count of four
In the third step (the exhale stage) I say at least a count of four because I find that sometimes I actually need to exhale a bit longer if I want to inhale more deeply when I repeat the activity. The act of exhaling helps the body maximize the removal of carbon dioxide, and it ensures that your next inhale will replenish your body with healthier oxygen.
You can see me practice this technique on this week’s episode of Dr. Richie in 60.
What behavioural techniques do you find helpful in reducing stress?
Hope this tip helps with your healing and growth.