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How Deep Breathing Helps Reduce Stress

By: John Kaweske

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The respiratory center of the brain controls breathing. When stressed, our breathing patterns and rate change due to the fight or flight response. We can control our breathing, and it can help us manage stress and other conditions. Numerous studies have shown that taking control of one’s breath can help improve one’s performance in various forms of meditation and yoga.

Deep Breathing and Stress

The primary function of breathing is to remove carbon dioxide from the air and absorb oxygen. Some of the muscles that control the movement of the lungs are those between the ribs and the diaphragm.When a person is stressed, their breathing patterns change. For instance, anxious people will take small shallow breaths while using their shoulders to move air out of and into their lungs. This type of breathing can interfere with the body’s balance of gasses. Prolonged hyperventilation or shallow over-breathing can worsen feelings of anxiety. By controlling your breathing, you can help decrease these symptoms.

Response of Relaxation

A person can relax by breathing through their nose gently and slowly. Doing so can help calm the body’s nervous system, which controls involuntary actions. Some believe focusing on one’s breath can cause hyperventilation and panic. If this occurs to you, try taking another approach to relaxation.

Abdominal Breathing

Various breathing techniques, such as abdominal breathing, can also be used to bring about relaxation. For optimal results, try to practice this technique in a quiet environment. To start, raise your ribcage and place one hand on your abdomen while you breathe. Notice how your upper abdomen and chest are moving while taking deep breaths. Keep your upper chest and stomach still as you gently breathe through the nose. This will help the diaphragm work more efficiently while you’re breathing. With each breath, let the tension in your body go. Continue to breathe slowly and with your abdomen until you feel relaxed.