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How to use your breathing to reduce stress

Did you know that we breathe around 20,000 times each day? Breathing is required for our whole body to function, including the nervous, muscular, digestive, cardiovascular and immune systems. A huge 70% of toxins leave our body via the breath, with the remaining 30% leaving through the skin, or as waste via the bladder and bowels.

Yet, despite how important it is and the health benefits it has, most of us don’t actually breathe properly (deeply enough). Up to 80% of us are ‘upper chest breathers’, which means we’re shallow breathing, instead of taking deep breaths.

Shallow breathing causes tightening of the muscles in the neck, shoulders and back, because we overcompensate by breathing more deeply through the chest to make sure our lungs get enough air. Shallow breathing may also be a sign of being in ‘fight-or-flight’ mode, which can be a reaction to stress.

Here are some telltale signs of shallow breathing:

  • Always feeling tired
  • Yawning often
  • Tight neck, shoulders and chest
  • Grinding your teeth in your sleep.

Breathing deeply (also known as ‘breathing diaphragmatically’ or ‘belly breathing’) has many health benefits, including reducing your stress and anxiety levels. When you breathe deeply regularly throughout the day, you will have a healthier heart rate, reduce the stress on your body and even lower your blood pressure. You will also have more oxygen circulating your body and the more oxygen you have, the better you will fuel your body, both mentally and physically.

How to reduce stress by deep breathing:

  1. Sit quietly and focus on your breathing
  2. Place a hand on your belly
  3. Breathe through your nose and into your belly, counting to four (you should feel your belly rise as it fills with air)
  4. Hold your breath for a few seconds
  5. Breathe out through your mouth, counting to four.

Aim to build deep breathing into your day! Why not practice the steps above for 5 minutes at a time, 2-3 times a day and start to feel the difference.

You can find out more about stress and pressure here, including additional tips for lowering your stress levels.

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