Diaphragmatic Breathing to Reduce Stress

Any of the following issues: anxiety, stress (physical, mental, or emotional), difficulty sleeping or racing thoughts, can put a strain on your way of life if they are experienced in high doses. Though medication may be advisable, there is another tool that has the potential to provide relief, and is much less expensive – your breath.

Deep abdominal breathing, also known as diaphragmatic (pronounced dye-uh-frag-matic) breathing, can produce a calming response ultimately leading to relaxation. Diaphragmatic breathing sends a message to your body that says, “Things are fine, it’s safe, it’s okay, take it slow and easy, you can handle things going on around you, no problem.”

These slow deep breaths provide a signal to your body that there is no present danger so your body tells you to stay the course and continue to breathe deeply. Thus, a calming cycle is established.

Stressful Breathing

Conversly, when you breathe in a quick, shallow way from your throat, an entirely different message is sent to your body. This style of breathing tells your body, “DANGER, DANGER, something scary and/or exciting is going on, you better buckle up.” This message stirs the fight or flight response and the body responds by releasing adrenaline, increasing your heart rate and blood pressure and tensing your muscles in preparation to act.

Think back to the last time you were startled, overly nervous or stressed. Were you concerned about how you were breathing? Probably not. And neither is your body. Once this response is initiated, your body is not thinking about your breathing. It’s concerned about how to deal with the present challenge, which only perpetuates the throat breathing and sustains the worry. Though this cycle can be useful before a big presentation or in a new and potentially unsafe environment, it can be debilitating in large doses or on a continuous basis. Learning how to breathe diaphragmatically can help you to manage the “danger” response.

Keys to diaphragmatic breathing

  • Your belly goes in and out – like a balloon inflating and deflating in rhythm
  • Your chest and shoulders hardly move
  • Practice, practice, practice
    • Breathe deeply
    • Picture a balloon in your stomach that inflates and deflates as you breathe
    • Be aware of your chest and shoulders – if they move focus on bringing your breath slowly down to your belly
    • Done correctly the book will rise and fall as the air moves in and out

Reduce Stress, Improve Relaxation

Diaphragmatic breathing is a great tool that can help reduce stress and promote relaxation. In order for it to be effective it has to be practiced. Equilibria Psychological and Consultation Services has experienced therapists that work with adults in developing coping skills like diaphragmatic breathing in order to reduce stress and potentially improve your daily life. If you would like to find out more about our services, please do not hesitate to contact us at 267-861-3685.