Breathing your way to inner calm

Breathing your way to inner calm

Breathing is vital to our existence as a human being. From our very first breath after birth, being able to breathe is essential in helping us, quite simply, to stay alive and live another day.

In and out, over and over we breathe. Often, we’re completely oblivious to this incredible automatic function as oxygen is delivered around our body, consistently and continuously throughout day and night. We take roughly 20,000 breaths a day, all without ever really thinking about it, but paying attention to our breathing can have a massive impact on our stress levels.

Breathing & stress

When we feel stressed, the way in which we breathe changes, as our body switches to ‘fight or flight’ mode. Short, snatched, shallow breaths tend to be the way in which a stressed person will breathe, but breathing in this way alters the balance of gases in the body and can prolong the way we’re feeling and make the experience far more intense.   

On the other hand, when we are relaxed, our breathing is often slow, steady, and gentle. One of the best ways to quickly draw yourself back into a state of calm when stressed is to mimic these behaviours. By copying this relaxed breathing pattern, it sends a signal to our nervous system to stand down and return to its normal state.

Deep breathing (sometimes called diaphragmatic breathing) allows more air to flow into your body, helping to calm your nerves and reduce stress and anxiety. It also helps to improve feelings of general wellbeing.  

Deep breathing for inner calm

So, are you ready to give it a try? This calming, breathing technique for stress, anxiety and panic takes just a few minutes and can be done anywhere.

First, find a place where you feel comfortable. You could be standing, sitting or lying down – whatever works for you. Pull your breath deep down into your belly, as far as is comfortable and without forcing it.

Breathe in slowly through your nose and then out through your mouth, as gently and deeply as you can. You may find it helpful to count from 1 to 5. Then, release your breath slowly, counting from 1 to 5 again, and letting the air flow from your mouth. If you keep doing this for up to five minutes, your body will adapt to this signal that all is calm and well.

To get the most from this exercise, try to make it part of your daily routine. With time, you’ll find that you revert to these exercises automatically at times when you feel anxious or stressed. It can also help you to feel more relaxed in general and more in tune with your body’s signals.

Breathing to relax

There are lots of other breathing and relaxation exercises you can do to relieve stress and relax your body and mind. A simple search will bring up plenty of techniques so you can find the right one for you. The most important thing is starting to recognise any changes to your breathing that, over time, will leave you feeling worn-out and stressed.

Inhale, exhale

Our top tip? Inhale essential oils or a fragrance that you associate with times of calmness and relaxation. Often this will help you to naturally start breathing deeply and bring you back to a state of calm.

Further information & resources

NHS – Breathing exercise for stress

Mind – Anxiety and panic attacks

AnxietyUK – Help with anxiety