Cira Center for Behavioral Health

The Most Effective Stress Reduction Technique EVER

by | Feb 18, 2016 | Blog

Yes, I said it.  The most effective stress reduction technique EVER.  AND it’s natural, easy and free.  Don’t believe me?  Read on.

Diaphragmatic breathing.  What on earth is that, right??  It’s a fancy term for deep breathing using your diaphragm.  Why is it important?  Let’s try an exercise to help figure that out:

Lay down if you can, but if you can’t, sitting works.  Put one hand on your chest and one hand on your stomach.  Now breathe as you normally do and try to notice a couple of things: Do either of your hands move?  If one of your hands does move, is it the one on your stomach or the one on your chest?  If you’re a busy, chronically stressed out person, my guess is that one of two things happened: neither of your hands moved much at all OR your hand on your chest moved.  So why does this matter?

It matters because how you breathe affects how you feel.  When you’re stressed out, scared, angry, etc., you take shorter, quicker breaths into your lungs.  When you take shorter quicker breaths into your lungs, you set off an entire stress reaction in your body.  Your heart rate increases, you might sweat, it’s more difficult to focus.  And it’s all of these physiological reactions that make you feel even more stressed.  For more details about this process read this.  Its one big cycle.

The good news is that you can interrupt this cycle by changing how you breathe.   Here’s how: when you’re starting to feel stressed out in an unproductive way, immediately start taking low, slow, deep breaths into your stomach, NOT YOUR LUNGS, by gently inhaling and exhaling through your nose.  If you’re alone or so inclined, go ahead and put your hand back on your stomach; you should feel your stomach fill up with air and rise up lifting your hand.  That’s how you know that you’re doing it right.

Check out this video for a quick *video demonstration if that’s more your thing:

The magic of this technique is that it’s as far from magic as you can get…its pure physiology.  But it requires practice.  So pick a time of day when you’re typically pretty chill, lay down somewhere and focus on your breathing.  Even if you only practice for 5 minutes every day, after a few months of really consistent practicing, you can completely re-wire your nervous system and lower your overall levels of anxiety.  Pretty damn cool huh?  The more you practice breathing using your diaphragm, the more natural it will become and the less stressed you‘ll feel.

It’s nice when we can make our bodies work for us rather than against us right?

*I realize that I chose to post that video and it’s mostly good (fun accent right??), but they are WRONG about breathing out of your mouth.  Far better to exhale through your nose.  If this is too uncomfortable for you, you may breathe out of your mouth, but exhale the air as if you are blowing through a straw with pursed lips.  If you open mouth exhale too much it messes stuff up (too much carbon dioxide blah blah) so…inhale AND exhale through the nose no matter what the nice Brit lady says 😉

Have your tried it yet?  What was it like?  How did it go?  Tell me about it on my Facebook page!