Deep paced breathing can be a foundational tool in helping us learn to decrease and manage the signs and symptoms of stress. Research shows that deep breathing lowers your heart rate, regulates blood pressure and relaxes your body – all of which decrease the harmful effects of cortisol on the body. More specifically, even, regulated breath decreases arousal in the sympathetic nervous system (the branch of the autonomic nervous system that responds during physical activity/stress) while engaging the parasympathetic nervous system (the branch in charge of relaxation, rest, and digestion).

In this article, we will review two breathing techniques to facilitate relaxation:

Diaphragmatic Breathing

Diaphragmatic breathing, or more simply, belly/abdominal breathing refers to being able to see our abdomen rise and fall during the breath cycle. This breathing technique encourages a full oxygen exchange, which can lead to greater feelings of relaxation. To practice, here’s how:

  • Begin in a comfortable seated position or lying down flat on your back
  • Relax your shoulders
  • Put one hand on your chest and the other hand on your stomach
  • Take a deep breath in through your nose and notice the hand on your stomach rising as you inhale.
  • Keeping your mouth closed, slowly exhale through your nostrils, and notice the hand on your stomach falling.
  • Repeat these steps several times for the best results.

Four Square Breathing

Four square breathing, also known as box breathing, is a four-part breathing technique that helps regulate and slows breathing. Four square breathing works well when paired with diaphragmatic breathing. To practice, here’s how:

  • Sitting in an upright position, slowly exhale the remaining breath in your lungs.
  • Inhale through your nose while slowly counting to four.
  • Hold your breath for a slow count of four.
  • Exhale through your mouth to the same slow count of four.
  • Hold your breath for another slow count of four.
  • Repeat these steps several times for the best results.

In addition to breathing techniques, ECHN has a wide range of integrative health services to help facilitate relaxation and reduce stress, from acupuncture to massage. Learn more about these techniques and many more on the integrative health services page. 

We hope you find this information helpful!

 

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