Breathing

How it works

Taking deep breaths from the abdomen, rather than shallow breaths from your upper chest, makes you inhale more air, and therefore oxygen. This in turn will make you less tense, short of breath, and anxious. Deep breathing is the most powerful and simple way to reduce the stress response so it is integrated into many relaxation techniques and stress therapies, which could explain their positive effect.

What it could help

Blood pressure, anxiety, insomnia, panic attacks, tensing up, nervousness, irritability, anger.

Evidence base

Few studies have looked at the effect of breathing specifically on the symptoms of stress, but those that exist have found that breathing exercises have a positive effect, particularly on sleep disturbance and anxiety. In many cases, research quotes that slower breathing is a sign of a calmer state.

What to expect

The main principal is to bring you into a state of relaxation by simply focusing on your breathing pattern and taking control of the most basic of life processes. Learning to breathe properly may sound simple, but it can be very empowering and help you control your emotions at times of anxiety or great stress.

The exercises can be done whenever and wherever you feel you need and cost nothing. You can ask for help with breathing therapy from your GP, and there are also a lot of free online resources that can train you.

Precautions

There is minimal risk, provided it is done properly. Give yourself time to adjust to the exercises and do not force anything which does not feel comfortable. Always seek medical advice if you feel any symptoms worsen or appear when trying new treatments.

Find out more

How does breathing therapy work?

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