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How to Use Breathing to Reduce Stress

How to Use Breathing to Reduce Stress

We live in an increasingly fast-paced world – and chronic stress is the byproduct. 

Around 77 percent of people say that they experience stress that impacts their physical health, while 73 percent say that stress affects their mental health. 

High stress levels are known to cause irritability, depression, anxiety, cardiovascular issues, diabetes, and more. 

That’s why it’s so important to identify personal signs of stress, get plenty of sleep, prioritize your mental well-being, and practice relaxation skills that can help you cope. 

Breathwork is a well-known coping skill for implementing mindfulness and relaxation into your daily routine. 

Stress and Overbreathing

Stress management is key to keeping your mental and physical health in check – and it really is as simple as breathing. 

Most of us over breathe by breathing in and out of our mouths rather than our noses. In fact, anywhere from 30 to 50 percent of people are habitual mouthbreathers. 

Breathing allows the body to absorb oxygen and expel carbon dioxide. However, mouth breathing causes shallow, small breaths that come from the shoulders rather than the diaphragm. 

As a result, our oxygen exchange is thrown off. Hyperventilation follows, causing more physical symptoms of anxiety and stress. 

The sympathetic nervous system is activated, unnecessarily preparing the body for fight or flight. 

That’s why controlled, deep breathing, sometimes called belly breathing, can eliminate feelings of stress and improve our well-being. 

When we’re relaxed, we breathe in and out of our noses slowly, which activates the parasympathetic nervous system and takes the body out of fight or flight. 

Belly breathing benefits include: 

  • Lowered heart rate and blood pressure
  • Improved oxygen exchange
  • Boosted immunity
  • Increased feelings of focus and calm

That’s not all. Belly breathing benefits may even include emotional boosts, according to recent research. 

Breathing Patterns and Their Corresponding Emotions

The phrase “take a deep breath” is actually backed by more science than you may think. 

Studies show that different emotions are associated with different breathing patterns. In turn, changing our breathing patterns influences how we feel. 

If you feel anxious, your breathing becomes irregular, fast, and shallow. However, feelings of calm and happiness are associated with deep, slow breathing. 

When you feel mental stress but shift your breathing toward a deep, slow pattern, you will eventually begin to experience the corresponding emotions. 

Changing your breathing pattern slows down your heart rate and sends signals to the brain and body to relax. This process is kicked off by stimulating the vagus nerve. 

This nerve runs from the brain stem down into the abdomen and has a huge influence on the parasympathetic nervous system, which helps us rest and digest. 

Moreover, slow, deep breathing is associated with nasal breathing, which releases nitric oxide into the lungs. 

Nitric oxide is a vasodilator. This miracle molecule dilates blood vessels, improves oxygen absorption, and plays a vital role in promoting calming feelings. 

Recent experiments published in Harvard Business Review measured the impact of a specific type of breathwork that is part of a technique called SKY Breath Meditation. 

This method combines a series of breathing exercises with meditation practices that were created to invoke feelings of calm and resilience. 

Participants in the study were either assigned to a breathing program or a control group. The participants who were part of the SKY Breath Meditation group reported the greatest mental health benefits. 

These participants marked improved social connections, increased positive emotions, enhanced mindfulness, and lowered feelings of stress and depression. 

A second study from the University of Arizona zeroed in on SKY Breath Meditation, comparing it to more conventional stress-relief practices that focused on changing the mindset surrounding stress. 

Although both workshops were found to improve feelings of social connectedness, SKY Breathing was found to provide more immediate improvements in stress and mood. 

Furthermore, the positive effects of continuous SKY Breathing were even more notable when measured three months later. 

The SKY Breathing group had steady breathing and heart rates when faced with high-pressure, stressful situations, while the group that went through the cognitive workshop showed elevated breathing and heart rates, indicating feelings of stress. 

SKY Breathing has proven benefits. But what exactly is it?

How to Practice Stress-Relieving Breathwork

As we mentioned before, SKY Breath Meditation combines breathwork with meditation practices. 

This is based on Sudarshan kriya yoga, giving it the name SKY. 

While there are many guided videos that demonstrate how to practice SKY breathing, learning how to belly breathe is a great place to start. 

To experience belly breathing benefits, begin by laying on your back with your knees bent. 

From here, place one hand on your chest and the other on your stomach, just below the rib cage. 

Inhale slowly through your nose, taking the air in toward your lower stomach. The goal here is to keep the top hand still, while the one on your stomach should rise as you inhale. 

Then, tighten your abdominal muscles and allow them to slowly collapse as you exhale. The hand on your stomach should move down as you exhale. 

To experience all of the stress-relieving belly breathing benefits, begin with five minutes, working your way up slowly to ten minutes if possible. 

While belly breathing provides a mechanical ritual that helps you physically and mentally relax during the day, there’s more you can do at night. 

Wearing mouth tape at night ensures that you’ll nasal breathe as you sleep, promoting stress relief overnight. 

Mouth Tape: Overnight Stress Relief

Belly breathing benefits include reduced blood pressure, blissful feelings of calm, and increased nitric oxide production due to nasal breathing. 

One of the easiest ways to de-stress outside of a daily belly breathing practice is to promote improved, quality sleep. 

Mouth tape improves sleep by preventing snoring, which fragments sleep. Moreover, it allows you to nasal breathe all night long, which is the most beneficial way to breathe.  

@somnifix Weird health hacks 💤 #mouthtaping #nasalbreathing #airwayhealth #didyouknow #healthyliving 🎥: @Ellen | Autoimmune Coach ♬ son original - nathaellabat
 With SomniFix, you won’t mouth breathe as you sleep. That means no snoring and a well-rested feeling upon waking, helping you recharge and reduce stress. 

Our strips are designed with all skin types in mind, too. SomniFix features a gel-like adhesive free from harmful irritants that are known to cause irritation and breakouts. 

While you breathe your way to reduced stress during the day, tape your way there at night with the help of SomniFix!

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