Breathing as a quick fix for stress

Meditation as an aid to stress is a long-term project that becomes more and more effective the longer you stick to it. But sometimes we need a quick fix without several weeks of training first. Nor is all the meditation practice you have already done in vain when using such quick fixes. The previous practice only makes them work better.

One of the most effective ways we can influence our own biology is to use our breath. Still, it is not as helpful for everyone, especially for those who have been traumatized. If focusing on the breath does not work for you, you can try to do some vigorous or even slow, relaxed movements – it is also very effective for changing gears.

Here is a small collection of breathing techniques for rapid stress reduction.

Breathe with your nose

By breathing through your nose, you get the best balance between oxygen and carbon dioxide. This creates the most relaxed state for the body and the brain.

Extend exhalation

When we are stressed, many people try to prolong their breathing to calm down. This practice is useful (see below), but the first thing you want to try is to prolong your exhalation.

Making the exhale a little longer than inhale affects both the nervous system and the heart.

It does not take much to notice a difference. If you let the exhalation be a second or two longer than the inhalation, you can notice a great impact on the state of mind after just a few rounds.

A nice rhythm to start with is 5 – 6. Here you breathe in while you count to five, and exhale while you count to six. If that is too difficult, try 3 – 4, or 2 – 3. If, on the other hand, you want to make your breath even longer, many people like 6 – 2 – 8. You breathe in while you count to six, hold your breath for two counts, and exhale for eight.

Breathe more slowly

This is one of the best-known methods for regulating stress, and many scientific studies support it. Slow breathing has shown clear effects on the respiratory, cardiac, cardiorespiratory, and autonomic nervous systems.

By slow breathing we mean 6-10 breaths per minute. Most people notice results already at the first breath. Half a minute may be enough, or maybe a couple of minutes. 

Breathe with your whole body

Breathing high into the chest is a classic sign of stress. Because it provides less space for the breath, it also makes the breathing shorter.

On the opposite side of the scale, there is breathing that goes all the way down to the abdomen. In this way, the breathing muscle (diaphragm) can move much more freely.

Another way to understand this is to actually breathe with your whole body. To study this more closely, you can explore the experience of hidden resistance in the body.

Sigh deeply

The breathing appapratus sighs all by itself about every five minutes to stay flexible. If you pay attention, these sighs can create a wave of relaxation you can lean into by focusing on rest .

You can also start a sigh by doing a double inhale and then an exhale. That is, you inhale, and then you inhale again, then you exhale through your nose or mouth. Feel free to repeat a few times.

Some precautions

Do not check your breathing too often. The body knows best how to breathe.

If you notice that you are breathing high up in the chest, it is because that is what the body needs. Controlling the breath so that you breathe with your stomach for a while is all well and good, but the high breathing is an expression of a complex biology that is not just about the breath. If you want to work on your tendency to breathe heavily in your chest, also explore other aspects of your lifestyle that affect stress levels.

Also, avoid controlled breathing becoming a routine every time you meditate. In your meditation practice, you work towards the ability to start on the spot . This is because you want to create a subconscious habit of being mindful, no matter what state you are in, and without having to make preparations first. We want to develop the ability to stay calm and think clearly before the stress takes over.

Learn more about breathing meditation

If you want to learn more about meditating with the breath, you can read more here .