The importance of cooling down after a heated workout session cannot be overstated. Yoga expert shares breathing exercises to help you cool down

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When it comes to yogic tradition, the importance of breath cannot be overstated. From decreasing stress to relieving pain - breathing exercises provide a range of health benefits. For those who seek new ways to effectively cool down post-workout, breathing exercises can be extremely helpful. "Incorporating breathing exercises and yoga into your post-workout routine allows for a gradual transition from a state of heightened activity to a state of relaxation and recovery. It supports physical and mental recovery, promotes overall well-being, and helps you feel refreshed after your workout," says certified yoga instructor and JetSynthesys* Master Sneha Desai.

She further says that improved blood circulation, enhanced relaxation, and a stronger mind-body connection can be achieved through breathing exercises, and yogic stretches.

Below, she shares three exercises that are easy to follow and will help you regulate your breath post-workout.

1. Belly breathing or candle blows
During this exercise, you breathe in from the nose and count till 5 in your mind.
You will count till 10 when you breathe out from the mouth. Remember it is just like you blowing candles but slowly.

Initially one can start with a ratio of 3:6 and slowly keep on increasing the number to a comfortable and relaxed breath. This can be done standing or sitting in a place or lying down.

2. Anulom Vilom or alternate nostril breathing
Sit in a comfortable position keeping your spine straight.
Close one nostril with your finger and inhale through the other.
Hold your breath briefly then exhale through the opposite nostril.
Repeat for several minutes.

One can count the breath in, hold and breathe out with a ratio of 3:3:6 or 5:5:10. This can be done for a minimum of 5 minutes or at least 5 rounds.

3. Ujjayi

Inhale deeply through your throat and exhale through your throat, creating a slight constriction in the back of your throat.
This produces a sound like the ocean or a snoring noise. Some people may feel an irritation in the throat but this has proven to help hold on to the posture in yin yoga also. This exercise can be done for a minimum of 5 minutes or at least 5 rounds.

Also Read: Use of menstrual cups reduce generation of non-biodegradable waste by 99 pct: Study

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A lot has been said about remedies for stress relief. From CBD to yoga to clubbing, everyone has their own method of shaking off the weight of the week and resetting.

But have you heard of the vagus nerve? Also known as the vagal nerves, they’re a main set of 12 nerves that controls your fight-or-flight reactions, as well as regulating your parasympathetic nervous system – something that’s affected by a lot of stress.


The vagus nerve is one of the biggest keys to health, healing and longevity! Chronic stress, anxiety, weight gain, inflammation, gut issues, sleep, brain fog and most diseases have a vagus nerve component to it. It makes sense because the vagus nerve controls the Relax portion of the nervous system. Healing the Vagus nerve is just one of MANY tools that we teach our ????Metabolic Clients???? in their journey to LOSE Weight, Inflammation, Brain Fog, Joint Pain, Sleep issues, Gut and Hormone dysfunction and more… In 42 days you can lose 20-42 pounds, with Energy through the roof. Comment ????for more info ???????? #vagusnerve #vagusnervestimulation #acupressure #longevity

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The vagus nerve also looks after your digestion, heart rate and immune system, and it’s the longest cranial nerve, running from your brain stem to your colon.

When it’s stimulated, it can help you calm down and diffuse feelings of stress and overwhelm. How to do that? Read on…

1. Deep belly breathing

The power of deep breathing is well known – it can calm us down and help us feel better, especially if we’re feeling particularly wobbly.

And deep breathing has also been found to help stimulate the vagus nerve, kickstarting its anti-anxiety and de-stressing capabilities. One study found that deep belly breathing and engaging the vagus nerve helped regulate feelings of anxiety in older adults and promoted successful ageing.

2. Exhaling longer than you inhale

When we breathe out, the vagus nerve lets out a chemical known as acetylcholine. This triggers the parasympathetic nervous system to slow down the heart rate and lower blood pressure.

Try doing deep breaths where you breathe in, hold for a count of four, and then breathe out slowly for a count of eight.

3. Gargling with water and singing

Shower singers rejoice; as the vagus nerve is connected to your vocal chords, a simple and fun way to activate it is by singing. According to the University of Ottawa, “Singing, humming, chanting and gargling can activate these muscles and stimulate your vagus nerve. This has been shown to increase heart-rate variability and vagal tone.”

4. Laughter

In the same way as the above, laughter can stimulate your vocal chords and help activate your vagus nerve. Plus, laughter is a natural stress reliever in itself!

5. Cold water immersion

Putting your face into icy water for a few seconds – you can do this with a bowl at home! – helps to activate the vagus nerve, decrease heart rate and switch on the immune system, according to cold water fanatic, Wim Hof.

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Experience a new level of calm and control in your life by tapping into the incredible power of your breath

Do you remember the first time you got behind the wheel of a car? For many of us, learning to drive is a rite of passage. But somewhere along the way, we become so confident in our skills that we neglect the small details — like checking our blind spot or using our turn signals.

As a result, bad driving habits can easily sneak up on us and be dangerous if left unchecked. The same is true for breathing.

A woman doing breathing exercises at home. Next Avenue
Diaphragmatic breathing facilitates the exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide (CO2) in your body. This dynamic process helps reduce your heart rate, making you feel more relaxed and connected with your breath.   |  Credit: Getty

Breathing is a rite of passage into this world. It's an automatic process we hardly notice. But how we breathe can impact our physical and emotional well-being. 

Stressful situations, anxiety or just sitting at a desk can lead us to take shallow breaths that don't fully expand our lungs. Like driving, it's easy to fall into poor breathing habits, but learning to breathe efficiently can make a world of difference.    

Exploring The Science Behind Breathing 

Breathing is more than just a simple act of inhaling and exhaling air. Research has revealed just how profound the impact of breathing can be on our health. 

Breathing is more than just a simple act of inhaling and exhaling air.

But breath awareness is nothing new — it has been a part of yoga and meditation rituals for thousands of years. And now, modern science has confirmed the biochemical and psychophysiological benefits of this ancient practice. 

"The body and the mind don't work in isolation," says Nikki, an online certified breath coach on a mission to give back the gift of the breath by providing the knowledge, skills and confidence to help people breathe mindfully. 

"And the amazing thing is that the breath links the body and the mind; it's like a bridge that connects the two," she continues. 

Learn About Diaphragmatic Breathing

Diaphragmatic breathing — sometimes known as belly breathing — has numerous health benefits. This deep breathing technique involves using the diaphragm muscle below the lungs when inhaling and exhaling. 

Unfortunately, many people experiencing high-stress levels tend to breathe using the shoulders, neck and back, neglecting the primary breathing muscle, the diaphragm. 

Nikki reminds us that "approximately 80% of our breathing should be happening with the diaphragm." But we tend to use only a fraction of that amount.

Practicing diaphragmatic breathing facilitates the exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide (CO2) in your body. This dynamic process helps reduce your heart rate, making you feel more relaxed and connected with your breath. 

The breath links the body and the mind; it's like a bridge that connects the two.

In addition, slow diaphragmatic breathing can be effective for managing stress and anxiety, as it encourages a slower, more profound way of taking breaths that helps to create a sense of peace and restoration. 

Diaphragmatic breathing has been shown to lower blood pressure in adults with high blood pressure or at risk of developing it. The addition of diaphragmatic breathing led to increased lung function in people with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and improved mental well-being and blood glucose management in people with type 2 diabetes mellitus.     

Nikki adds, "At its simplest level, within our autonomic nervous system, we have two main branches: The sympathetic [the fight or flight response] and the parasympathetic [the rest and digest response]." 

The difference between the two lies in their activation signals. The sympathetic nervous system is activated when faced with a stressful or challenging situation, while the parasympathetic nervous system works to help us relax and restore energy levels. 

"And we can use our breath to activate one of those systems if that's what we need," she explains. 

Breath Coaching: Is It Right For You?

Take a moment and imagine a baby breathing. Their little bellies rise and fall rhythmically with each breath, allowing them to take in all the air they need. There's something so effortless, yet powerful, about this intuitive way of breathing.

But as we get older, we lose touch with diaphragmatic breathing. As a result, we often need to develop more helpful and healthy breathing habits. 

"These might range from breathing too fast, too shallow, breath holding or mouth breathing. Due to this, many people remain stuck in the stress cycle," Nikki says.

Breathing practices fit into three categories: Fire, Water, and Earth. 

Just because we're breathing doesn't mean we're doing it right. And as you might seek a personal trainer to improve your physical fitness, a breath coach can help you tap into the power of your breath and guide you through retraining your body to breathe to achieve optimal wellness.

Nikki explains, "I work with individuals to help them use their breath to regulate their nervous system and to change to a state that's more suitable for them to be at their best." 

She commented that her clients develop a more profound sense of breath awareness, which allows them to appreciate the simple yet profound act of breathing. Moreover, tuning into their breath makes them more attuned to themselves and the world around them.

Practical Tips for Optimal Breathing

Nikki describes how breathing practices fit into three categories: Fire, Water, and Earth. 

Fire techniques are perfect for waking up and energizing your body, preparing you for the day ahead. Water techniques can be used anytime throughout the day to stabilize your mood and maintain an overall sense of calm. Earth breathing is all about grounding and relieving stress and anxiety. 

Ready to try diaphragmatic breathing? First, place one hand on your stomach and the other on your chest. Next, take a slow and gentle inhale through your nose, focusing on the sensation of your belly rising with the breath while the hand atop your chest remains still. 

Finally, exhale through your mouth for at least two times longer than your inhale. A simple breathing practice to activate the parasympathetic nervous system and slow things down when stressed is the 4-7-8 Breathing Technique

Here's how to do it: 

  1. Exhale through your mouth to release all the air from your lungs.
  2. Close your mouth and, using diaphragmatic breathing, gently breathe in through your nose, counting up to four in your head.
  3. Hold your breath for a count of seven. 
  4. Slowly exhale through your mouth for a count of eight.

Practicing the 4-7-8 technique while sitting or lying down is recommended, as some individuals may experience lightheadedness during the initial attempts. 

Transform your health with a tool that's always within reach — your breath. Optimal breathing empowers you to take charge of your well-being whenever and wherever you need it.   

Maggie Aime
Maggie Aime, BSN, RN, is a freelance health, wellness, and medical personal finance writer. She earned a Bachelor of Science in Nursing from the University of Central Florida. Her work has appeared in GoodRx Health, HealthNews, Nursing CE Central, and elsewhere. Read More

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“Take a deep breath” — it’s advice you’ve probably both given and received. Slowing down and focusing on your breathing allows you to center yourself and reassess things; it helps you think more clearly and feel better mentally. But did you know that breathing exercises — or breathing in a way that requires certain steps — can help you feel better physically as well? See how breathing, the thing you’re doing all the time anyway, can be used as a tool for better health, according to science.

How can breathing exercises help me?

You already know breathing is important. We take about 17,000 breaths a day, yet never give it a second thought. For something we do so often, it’s important to know that how you breathe can make a difference on your body, too. For example: According to an animal study published in Science, breathing through your nose increases blood flow to your brain, triggering feelings of tranquility on a neurological level. Breath is the key to good health, and mastering certain breathing exercises can help in a wide variety of ways, from erasing stress to taming a heartburn flare.

For Dry Eyes: Try ‘Belly Breathing’

For the 61 percent of women over 50 with dry eye, help is here. Three minutes of “belly breathing” may boost women’s tear production significantly, as shown in a randomized controlled trial published in The Ocular Surface. The reason? Belly breathing calms the parasympathetic nervous system, which regulates tear-producing lacrimal glands. To do: Inhale through your nose for four seconds as your belly rises, then exhale through your nose for six seconds as your belly falls. Repeat for three minutes.

For Heartburn: Try the 4-7-8 Trick

You’re not just imagining it — you really may be getting heartburn more often when you’re stressed out. A study published in Digestive Diseases and Sciences found stress nearly doubles your odds of heartburn, since it slows digestion. When food stays in your stomach, it stretches the “plug” that blocks acid. The fix: Inhale for four seconds, hold for seven, then exhale for eight. Repeat for three minutes. Research from The American Journal of Gastroenterology suggests deep breathing like this may even cut the need for heartburn meds.

For Brain Fog: Practice Deep Breathing

Deep breathing may clear mental cobwebs, reveals research from Frontiers in Psychology. What’s more, a study published in PLoS One found that some soldiers practiced something called “tactical breathing” — during which they breathed deeply — were more focused, even when under pressure. (Note: More research is necessary, because not all soldiers experienced beneficial effects from tactical breathing.)

To do: Imagine a square in front of you. As you trace each side of the box in your mind, inhale for four seconds, hold for four, exhale for four, then keep your lungs empty for four to complete the box. Repeat four times.

For Anxiety: Try ‘Cyclical Sighing’

A Cell Reports Medicine study found “cyclical sighing” (exhaling as if giving a sigh of relief) may calm worries in five minutes. Why? It may signal the brain that an urgent event is over and it’s time to relax. To do: Inhale through your nose until your lungs are mostly full. Pause, then inhale again. Pause, then exhale slowly through your nose. Repeat for five minutes.

For Pain: Try a Pillow Squeeze

If pain flares, gently squeeze a pillow and breathe deeply. A study published in PLoS One shows that it may engage the diaphragm and slow your breathing rate to 10 breaths a minute — a pace proven to calm the nervous system. Research in The Journal of the International Association for the Study of Pain says 20 minutes of this type of breathing may block pain signals.

A version of this article originally appeared in our print magazine, Woman’s World.

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In our fast-paced, modern lives, quality sleep has become a luxury for many. We toss and turn, struggling to find tranquillity amid the chaos of our thoughts. But what if there was a simple, natural way to unlock the gateway to restful sleep? Enter the hidden secret: self-regulation of breathing. In this article, we will explore how conscious control of our breath can switch on the parasympathetic mode, facilitating relaxation and creating the ideal conditions for deep sleep.

Why is the regulation of breathing important for sleep? 

Our autonomic nervous system has two primary modes: the sympathetic mode, commonly known as the ‘fight or flight’ response, and the parasympathetic mode, often referred to as ‘rest and digest’. These modes represent two ends of a spectrum: stress versus relaxation. Falling asleep is impossible when we are trapped in the grip of the sympathetic mode, as our bodies are primed for action rather than rest.

The breath-relaxation connection

Have you ever noticed how your breath changes when you’re stressed or anxious? It becomes shallow, rapid and irregular. This shift is no coincidence; it is the body’s instinctive response to stress. When we are stressed, our breath becomes compromised, disrupting the delicate balance within our physiology. As a result, our heart rate increases, our muscles tense up, and our minds race with worries. To restore harmony and pave the way for sleep, we must regain control of our breath.

The oxygen mask analogy

Consider a scenario in a hospital emergency room. When a trauma patient is rushed in, the first line of action is often to administer oxygen. Why? Because in moments of extreme physical stress, the body’s breath is the first element to fall out of balance. By providing oxygen, medical professionals help the patient regain control over their breathing, kick-starting the process of rebalancing the body. We can apply this principle to our everyday lives by understanding the vital role breath plays in managing stress and promoting relaxation.

Ways to self-regulate your breathing 

Belly/Abdominal/Diaphragmatic Breathing: All mean the same. When we are born, we instinctively use our diaphragm to breathe deeply into our bellies. Watch a baby sleep, and you’ll notice their little bellies rise and fall with each breath. However, as we grow older and encounter stress and tension, our breath tends to shift to shallow chest breathing. This type of breathing is associated with the fight-or-flight response, triggering anxiety and hindering relaxation.

By reverting to belly breathing, we tap into our body’s natural mechanism for relaxation. It engages the diaphragm, a dome-shaped muscle beneath the lungs, and encourages a slower, more soothing breath. This activates the parasympathetic nervous system, promoting a state of calm and facilitating deep sleep.

So, the next time you find yourself struggling to relax or fall asleep, remember the balloon analogy and embrace the simplicity of belly breathing. Let your breath become your guide, leading you to a peaceful and restful night’s sleep.

Place one hand on your abdomen and take slow, deep breaths, allowing your belly to rise and fall with each inhalation and exhalation. This technique activates the diaphragm, leading to a sense of calmness and promoting relaxation.

Left nostril breathing: This practice is believed to activate the parasympathetic nervous system and induce a state of relaxation.

Here’s how one can practice it: 

  • Find a comfortable seated position.
  • Relax and centre yourself with closed eyes or a soft gaze.
  • Use your right hand and place your index and middle fingers between your eyebrows.
  • Close your right nostril with your right thumb.
  • Inhale slowly and deeply through your left nostril.
  • Close your left nostril with your ring finger and pinky finger.
  • Exhale slowly and completely through your right nostril.
  • Release your right nostril and inhale through it.
  • Close your right nostril and exhale through your left nostril.
  • Repeat the alternating pattern for several minutes.
  • Gradually extend the duration as you become more comfortable.
  • End the practice by returning to normal, relaxed breathing.

Vibrational breathwork: Experiment with techniques such as Bhramari, also known as ‘bee breath’, or Omkar breathing. By tying vibrations, created through humming or chanting, with breath, you can experience a profound sense of tranquillity and mental stillness. Here’s a simple way to chant Om. 

  • Find a comfortable seated position.
  • Relax and centre yourself with closed eyes or a soft gaze.
  • Take a deep breath through your nose.
  • Exhale while vocalising the sound “Om” (pronounced as “aum”).
  • Chant at a comfortable and steady pace.
  • Focus on the vibration and resonance of the sound.
  • Allow the sound to resonate throughout your body.
  • Continue chanting for a desired duration, such as a few minutes.
  • Observe the sense of tranquillity and mental stillness that arises.
  • Gradually increase the duration of your chanting practice over time.
  • Conclude the practice by taking a few moments of silent reflection.

Box breathing: This technique helps regulate the breath, calm the mind, and prepare the body for sleep.

Here are the steps for box breathing.

  • Find a comfortable seated position or lie down.
  • Relax your body and mind, and close your eyes if it feels comfortable.
  • Breathe in deeply through your nose to a count of four.
  • Hold your breath for a count of four.
  • Exhale slowly and completely through your nose or mouth to a count of four.
  • Hold your breath again for a count of four.
  • Repeat the cycle for several rounds, maintaining the same count for each phase.
  • Focus on the rhythmic pattern of inhaling, holding, exhaling, and holding.
  • Keep your breath smooth, controlled, and even throughout the practice.
  • Gradually increase the duration of each count as you become more comfortable.
  • Practice box breathing for a few minutes or longer, depending on your preference.
  • Conclude the practice by taking a few moments of relaxed, natural breathing.

To fully harness the benefits of self-regulated breathing, it is essential to integrate it into daily routine. Set aside a few minutes for intentiosnal breathwork and make it a part of your bedtime ritual. Find a quiet space, free from distractions, and explore the techniques that resonate with you. Gradually, you will develop a profound connection with your breath, empowering you to regulate your emotions, manage stress, and pave the way for deep, rejuvenating sleep.

Luke Coutinho practices in the field of holistic nutrition and integrative and lifestyle medicine. He is the pioneer and founder of the Luke Coutinho signature You Care Wellness Program.

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MirchiMirchiUpdated: 24 min ago
5 Breathing exercises to relieve anxiety in an instant

Many individuals experience anxiety, which can have a significant impact on their lives. When feeling anxious, symptoms such as increased heart rate, shallow and rapid breathing, and heightened tension often arise. However, there are effective methods to alleviate anxiety, such as engaging in breathing exercises.

Breathing exercises are straightforward yet potent techniques that enable individuals to regulate their breathing and achieve a state of mental calmness. By directing attention to the breath, it becomes possible to slow down the heart rate, reduce blood pressure, and alleviate muscle tension. Here are a few breathing exercises that can help relieve anxiety promptly as stated by Dr. Vandana Juneja, Lifestyle Expert, GOQii :

1. Diaphragmatic Breathing:

Also referred to as belly breathing or deep breathing, diaphragmatic breathing involves inhaling deeply into the abdomen. This technique aids in slowing down the breathing process and activating the relaxation response.

To practice diaphragmatic breathing, find a comfortable position by lying down on your back or sitting in a chair with your feet flat on the ground. Then, place one hand on your chest and place the other on your belly. Inhale slowly and deeply through your nostrils, noticing the expansion of your belly as you breathe in. Now, exhale through your mouth slowly while feeling your belly contract. Repeat this exercise for a few minutes, concentrating on your breath and the sensations in your body.

2. Box Breathing:

Box breathing, also known as square breathing, involves following a pattern of inhaling for four counts, holding the breath for four counts, exhaling for four counts, and holding the breath again for four counts. This technique aids in regulating breathing and calming the mind.

To practice box breathing, assume a comfortable position with a straight back and your feet flat on the ground. Take a gradual breath in through your nostrils, ensuring a slow count to four. Hold your breath for four counts. Next, exhale through the mouth slowly for four counts. Before you inhale again, pause and hold your breath for a count of four. Repeat this exercise for a few minutes. Be sure to focus on your breath and the sensations in your body.

3. Coherent Breathing

The goal of coherent breathing is to slow down the breathing rate to five breaths per minute. This pattern of breathing helps lower heart rate and blood pressure, resulting in a calmer nervous system.

Sit comfortably and inhale through your nose, expanding your belly for a count of five. Without pausing at the top of the inhale, immediately begin exhaling to a count of six. Repeat this sequence at least five times to complete a full-minute cycle. If inhaling or exhaling for this length of time is challenging, start with a three-count and gradually increase.

4. Alternate Nostril Breathing:

Also known as Nadi Shodhana in Sanskrit, alternate nostril breathing involves inhaling and exhaling through one nostril at a time to balance the flow of energy. This technique helps quiet the mind and emotions.

To practice Nadi Shodhana, sit upright in a comfortable position with a straight spine. Bring your right hand in front of your face, placing your index and middle fingers between your eyebrows for stability. During the exercise, you will block either the left or right nostril using your thumb and ring finger. Close your eyes and block the right nostril with your thumb. Inhale slowly through the left nostril for a count of four, take a brief pause, and exhale through the right nostril for a count of four. Perform this cycle for a minimum of five repetitions.

5. Victory Breath:

Victory breath, also known as Ujjayi Breath, derives its name from the Sanskrit term and is often associated with the soothing sound resembling waves crashing against the shore, hence referred to as ocean breath.

To practice this technique, find a comfortable upright position with a straight spine and hands resting in your lap. Keep your mouth closed and begin by inhaling through your nose for a count of 4, gently constricting the airflow to the back of your throat during the inhale. After reaching the top of the inhale, pause for a second before exhaling. Constrict your throat slightly and exhale slowly to a count of 6. Repeat this exercise for 5-10 repetitions.

In conclusion, breathing exercises provide a simple yet effective means to manage anxiety. Through regular practice, you can develop the ability to regulate your breathing and cultivate a calm mind, ultimately promoting a sense of relaxation and ease. So, take a few moments each day to focus on your breath and embrace the numerous benefits of these powerful techniques.

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High blood pressure can increase a person’s risk of heart attack, stroke, and heart disease. However, daily breathing exercises can lower blood pressure and reduce these risks.

Blood pressure is the amount of pressure that blood flow puts on the walls of a person’s arteries. If someone’s blood pressure is consistently high, it can damage other organs, including the heart, kidneys, brain, and eyes.

Many people use breathing exercises to control panic attacks or reduce feelings of anxiety. A 2023 scoping review concluded that breathing exercises could also help lower blood pressure.

This article looks into the different breathing exercises people can do to lower their blood pressure and how long the effects might last.

Blood pressure tests measure two types of blood pressure: systolic (SBP) and diastolic (DBP). SBP measures the pressure as a person’s heart beats, while DBP measures the pressure as the heart rests. Doctors measure both types in millimeters of mercury (mm Hg).

Breathing exercises usually concentrate on slowing the number of breaths a person takes each minute.

The 2023 scoping review suggests that only 2 minutes of slow and deep breathing could lower the SBP of hypertensive individuals by 8.6 mm Hg and their DBP by 4.9 mm Hg.

Breathing exercises are safe for most people and simple to do. The American Lung Association explains that breathing exercises can make a person’s lungs work more efficiently.

There are multiple types of breathing exercises a person can learn when they are trying to lower their blood pressure.

Diaphragmatic, or belly breathing, involves someone consciously slowing their breathing while allowing their belly to expand.

To practice belly breathing, a person can follow these instructions:

  1. Sit down and place one hand on the chest and the other on the belly.
  2. Breathe in slowly through the nose, keeping the mouth closed. While breathing in, allow the belly to fill with air, but keep the chest still.
  3. Breathe out slowly through the mouth. Try to make the out-breath, or exhalation, longer than the in-breath, or inhalation.

Sama vritti pranayama, or box breathing, is a yoga breathing technique. It involves taking deep, rhythmic, controlled breaths.

Follow these steps to practice box breathing:

  1. Sit down comfortably and slowly exhale through the mouth.
  2. Close the mouth, and breathe in slowly for a count of four.
  3. Pause, and slowly count to four again while holding the breath.
  4. Exhale through the mouth, counting to four again, at the same speed as before.

The idea here is that each step takes the same amount of time, with the four steps making a box shape diagrammatically. With practice, people can increase the count, making sure to keep each step the same length.

Another rhythmic breathing technique, 4–7–8, is one that needs practice to perfect. Here are the steps to follow:

  1. Sit down comfortably and slowly breathe out through the mouth.
  2. Close the mouth and breathe in slowly for 4 seconds.
  3. Pause, and hold the breath for 7 seconds.
  4. Purse the lips and forcefully exhale through the mouth for 8 seconds.

The key thing to remember here is the ratio between the breaths. If a person feels lightheaded or dizzy while practicing this technique, they can shorten the time.

Learn more about the 4–7–8 breathing technique here.

Some people prefer to use technology to help them practice their breathing exercises. A 2019 article suggests that people who used a device called RESPeRATE regularly for 15 minutes a day experienced a reduction in blood pressure.

RESPeRATE is a Food and Drug Administration (FDA)-approved device that uses a sensor to record a person’s breathing pattern and creates sounds as a guide for inhaling and exhaling.

The idea is that the individual synchronizes their breathing with the sounds from the device to increase their exhalation rate slowly and slow their breathing.

According to the 2023 scoping review, there is strong evidence that breathing exercises lower a person’s blood pressure. They highlight that 17 out of 20 studies recorded a decrease in SBP and DBP.

They suggest that regular, slow, and deep breathing can significantly lower blood pressure in hypertensive individuals over 12 weeks.

A 2019 study investigating breath-holding and its effect on blood pressure claim that breath-holding can raise a person’s blood pressure.

The study suggests that rhythmic breath-holding does not affect a person’s blood pressure in the same way as slow-breathing exercises.

If a person wishes to lower their blood pressure, slow breathing techniques may be more effective.

Breathing exercises can help lower a person’s blood pressure. They are simple to perform, and most people see favorable results if they practice regularly.

Most breathing exercises involve consciously slowing the breathing rate and taking deeper breaths.

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MirchiMirchiUpdated: 44 min ago
6 Ways to enhance oxygen levels in your body

Maintaining optimal oxygen levels is crucial for overall health and well-being. Adequate oxygenation supports cellular function, boosts energy levels, and enhances cognitive performance. Let us explore 6 practical and effective ways to improve oxygen levels in your body, promoting vitality and vitality.

1) Engage in regular physical exercise


Physical activity is an excellent way to enhance oxygen levels. Regular exercise helps improve lung capacity, allowing for more efficient oxygen uptake. Engaging in aerobic exercises such as brisk walking, jogging, cycling, or swimming stimulates deep breathing, increasing oxygen intake. Additionally, strength training exercises, like weightlifting or resistance training, boost the efficiency of oxygen utilization by improving muscle function and promoting cardiovascular health.

2) Practice deep breathing techniques

deep breathing

Deep breathing exercises can significantly improve oxygenation. Techniques such as diaphragmatic breathing or belly breathing focus on expanding the diaphragm to draw in more oxygen. Take slow, deep breaths through your nose, allowing your abdomen to rise, and exhale slowly through your mouth. Deep breathing not only increases oxygen levels but also promotes relaxation, reduces stress, and enhances mental clarity.

3) Maintain proper posture

proper posture

Good posture plays a vital role in optimal lung function. Slouching compresses the lungs, limiting their capacity to expand fully. To improve oxygen levels, practice maintaining an upright posture while sitting, standing, or walking. Keep your shoulders back, chest lifted, and head aligned with your spine. This open posture allows for unrestricted breathing, enabling a better exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide.

4) Increase indoor air quality

Indoor air quality can have a significant impact on oxygen levels. Ensure proper ventilation in your living spaces by opening windows or using air purifiers to remove pollutants, dust, and allergens. Consider incorporating indoor plants such as snake plants, peace lilies, or spider plants that naturally purify the air by absorbing carbon dioxide and releasing oxygen. Regularly clean and vacuum your living areas to minimize dust and keep the air fresh.

5) Stay hydrated

stay hydrated

Adequate hydration is vital for optimal oxygen levels. Water helps thin the blood, allowing for better circulation and oxygen delivery to cells. Aim to drink at least eight glasses of water per day and increase your intake during exercise or when in dry environments. Limit the consumption of dehydrating beverages such as alcohol and caffeine, as they can contribute to dehydration and hinder oxygenation.

6) Maintain a balanced diet

balanced diet

Nutrition plays a key role in oxygenation. Include foods rich in iron, such as leafy greens, lean meats, beans, and nuts, as iron is essential for hemoglobin production, which carries oxygen in the blood. Omega-3 fatty acids found in fatty fish, chia seeds, and flaxseeds promote lung health and efficient oxygen exchange. Antioxidant-rich fruits and vegetables, such as berries, citrus fruits, and spinach, protect lung tissue from oxidative stress, maintaining their functionality for proper oxygen absorption.

But there also are various factors that can contribute to a drop in oxygen levels, leading to potential health complications. Check some of those factors now-

1) Respiratory conditions

Respiratory conditions are a primary cause of decreased oxygen levels. Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), asthma, pneumonia, and bronchitis can impair lung function, limiting the exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide. These conditions lead to narrowed airways, inflammation, and decreased lung capacity, making it more difficult for oxygen to reach the bloodstream. Patients with respiratory conditions may require supplemental oxygen or specific medications to alleviate symptoms and improve oxygenation.

2) High altitude

At higher altitudes, oxygen levels in the air decrease, which can result in a drop in blood oxygen saturation. This reduction in oxygen availability is due to decreased atmospheric pressure. People who live in or travel to high-altitude regions may experience symptoms like shortness of breath, fatigue, and dizziness. The body can adapt to high altitudes over time, but in severe cases, supplemental oxygen may be required to maintain adequate oxygen levels.

3) Anemia

Anemia is a condition characterized by a decrease in red blood cells or hemoglobin, impairing the blood's ability to carry oxygen. Hemoglobin binds to oxygen in the lungs and transports it throughout the body. Deficiencies in iron, vitamin B12, or folate can lead to anemia. Common symptoms include fatigue, weakness, and shortness of breath. Treatment involves identifying and addressing the underlying cause of anemia, such as nutritional deficiencies or chronic conditions, and may include iron supplementation or blood transfusions.

4) Heart conditions

Heart conditions can contribute to decreased oxygen levels. Conditions such as congestive heart failure, coronary artery disease, and arrhythmias can weaken the heart's pumping ability, reducing blood flow to the lungs and other organs. This can result in inadequate oxygenation of the tissues. Symptoms may include shortness of breath, chest pain, and fatigue. Managing heart conditions through medications, lifestyle changes, and, in some cases, medical interventions like angioplasty or bypass surgery can help improve oxygen delivery to the body's tissues.

5) Lung disorders

Certain lung disorders can significantly impact oxygen levels. Conditions like pulmonary fibrosis, lung cancer, and pulmonary embolism can interfere with the lung's ability to absorb and transfer oxygen to the bloodstream. In pulmonary fibrosis, for instance, lung tissue becomes thickened and scarred, impairing oxygen exchange. Timely diagnosis and appropriate treatment, including medication, surgery, or radiation therapy, can help manage these conditions and potentially improve oxygen levels.

Understanding the causes behind decreased oxygen levels is crucial for early detection and appropriate intervention. Seeking medical attention, adopting lifestyle changes, and adhering to prescribed treatments can help restore and maintain optimal oxygen levels, promoting overall health and well-being.

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Regardless of whether you belong to the night owls or early birds, a lack of deep and restful sleep on a regular basis is bound to leave you exhausted. Aside from the whole walking zombie aspect of poor sleep, inadequate sleep hygiene also affects memory, concentration, and your body's ability to fight off illness, according to the Sleep Foundation. The key to improved sleep involves stimulating the parasympathetic nervous system (PNS), commonly referred to as the body's "rest and digest" mode. As opposed to the sympathetic nervous system (SNS), which activates the "fight or flight" mode, the PNS encourages a state of relaxation which makes it easier for you to fall asleep while slowing your heart rate and promoting digestion, per the Cleveland Clinic.

As it turns out, stimulating your PNS is as easy as breathing. Learning to breathe into your belly tricks your brain into entering a rested state. This type of breathing is referred to as diaphragmatic or belly breathing. While lying in bed, begin by placing a hand on your stomach and taking a deep breath through your nose. Focus on expanding your stomach with each inhale, feeling your hand rise with your stomach. Hold your breath for two seconds, then slowly exhale through your mouth without forcing the air out. Repeat this cycle at least ten to 15 times per night.

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After experiencing a traumatic accident, it can be challenging to know where to turn for help. You may be dealing with physical injuries, emotional trauma, and the stress of navigating the aftermath of the accident. However, yoga can be an effective tool for recovery, helping you to heal both physically and mentally. In this article, we’ll explain some tips for using yoga to aid in your recovery.

Start slow and listen to your body

Starting a yoga practice after a traumatic accident can be challenging both mentally and physically. It’s important to approach the practice with compassion and gentleness towards yourself. It’s normal to feel some level of discomfort and pain, and it’s crucial to listen to your body’s signals and adjust accordingly.

Starting with simple poses is a great way to ease into a yoga practice after an accident. These poses can help to increase mobility, build strength, and improve circulation. As you become more comfortable and confident in your practice, you can gradually add more complex poses.

If you experience any discomfort or pain during your yoga practice, it’s essential to modify or adjust the pose to suit your needs. Modifying the pose can help to reduce any discomfort and can prevent further injury. It’s essential to work with your body, not against it, and to avoid pushing yourself too hard.

Focus on breathwork

Breathwork is a fundamental component of yoga, and it can be particularly helpful for those recovering from a traumatic accident. Breathwork techniques, such as deep belly breathing and alternate nostril breathing, can help to calm the nervous system, reduce stress, and promote relaxation.

Deep belly breathing, also known as diaphragmatic breathing, involves inhaling deeply into the belly, allowing it to expand fully and exhaling slowly. This technique can help to slow down the heart rate and promote relaxation, which can be particularly helpful for people who are experiencing anxiety or stress related to their accidents.

Alternate nostril breathing, also known as Nadi Shodhana Pranayama, involves breathing through one nostril at a time while using the fingers to block and release each nostril alternately. This technique can help to balance the left and right hemispheres of the brain, promote relaxation, and increase mental clarity.

Use props

Yoga props such as blocks, blankets, and straps can be valuable tools for individuals recovering from an injury. These props can help to support your body, allowing you to achieve proper alignment and maintain poses comfortably, which can aid in physical healing and prevent further injury.

Blocks, for example, can be used to support the body in standing poses, seated poses, and even during balancing poses. They can also be used to provide additional support for the hips and knees during seated forward folds. Using blocks can help to alleviate pressure and pain in areas of the body that may be injured or sore, allowing you to maintain a comfortable and safe yoga practice.

Blankets can also be used to provide additional support and cushioning for the body, particularly in seated poses or during relaxation. They can be used to support the head and neck during a reclining pose or to provide extra cushioning under the hips or knees in seated poses.

Straps can be particularly helpful in maintaining proper alignment in poses that require flexibility, such as forward folds or hamstring stretches. They can also be used to provide additional support for the arms or legs during standing or seated poses.

Practice mindfulness

Mindfulness is a state of active and open attention to the present moment. It is a powerful tool that can help individuals recovering from trauma manage difficult emotions and build resilience. Incorporating mindfulness into your yoga practice can help you to cultivate awareness of your body, mind, and emotions and to develop a greater sense of control over your reactions to stress.

As you move through your yoga poses, focus on your inhales and exhales and notice how your breath moves through your body. This can help to increase your awareness of your physical sensations and to develop a deeper connection to your body.

Another way to incorporate mindfulness into your yoga practice is by paying attention to your body’s sensations. As you move through your poses, take notice of how your body feels. Are there areas of tension or discomfort? By paying attention to your body’s sensations, you can learn to respond to your body’s needs and make adjustments that support your healing and recovery.

Overall, incorporating yoga into your recovery process can be a helpful tool for healing both physically and mentally after a traumatic accident. However, it’s important to remember that everyone’s healing journey is unique and that seeking the help of a qualified healthcare provider or car accident lawyer can be crucial in many cases. By taking a holistic approach to your recovery and seeking out the support and resources you need, you can take important steps towards healing and regaining a sense of well-being.

Jennifer Bell is a wellness coach, mother of two, and self instructed yogi. She writes for car accident lawyers in the Philadelphia area.

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breathing techniques

Breathing comes naturally to a lot of people, but many of us could be breathing more effectively. When breathing properly, you should feel relaxed and have steady, controlled breaths. Those of us with lung diseases like chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, or COPD, have difficulties with productive breathing. But factors like stress and anxiety, a change of weather, or even lack of exercise can affect anyone’s ability to breathe properly.

When we experience shortness of breath, anxiety can make it even harder to breathe. Take a few minutes out of your day and find a comfortable place to practice breathing. The more you practice, the easier it will be. These are a few exercises to guide you. 

Deep Breathing

This is a good daily practice or for any time you feel tense. 

  • Lie comfortably on your back, sit in a chair with your head and shoulders supported, or stand with your elbows positioned slightly back. This will allow your belly to expand more fully.
  • Take a deep breath through your nose and let your belly fill with air.
  • Hold it for as long as you can.
  • Breathe out through your nose.
  • Repeat up to 10 times.

RELATED: 3 Breathing Exercises You Can Do Anywhere

Pursed Lip Breathing

This technique helps during difficult parts of physical activity or at the onset of shortness of breath.

It helps to control the rhythm of your breathing.

  • Breathe in through your nose normally for 2 seconds.
  • Purse (or pucker) your lips as if to whistle or blow out a candle.
  • Breathe out for 4 or more seconds (twice as long as you inhaled).
  • Repeat several times.

Diaphragmatic Breathing

Also called belly breathing, diaphragmatic breathing happens in the diaphragm, which is the main muscle used for breathing. The diaphragm is a large muscle that sits below the lungs and helps the lungs expand and contract.

With COPD, air can be trapped and pushed on the lungs, thus causing those with COPD to use more neck, chest, and back muscles to breathe.

This breathing technique offers several benefits to your body including reducing your blood pressure, slowing your heart rate and improving relaxation. 

  • Lie on a flat surface with your head supported and knees bent.
  • Place one hand just below your ribcage and the other on your upper chest over your breastbone. 
  • Breathe in through your nose slowly and deeply. You should feel your stomach move out against your hand. The hand on your chest should remain as still as possible.
  • Tighten your abdominal muscles and breathe out slowly through pursed lips.
  • Repeat as needed. 

Controlled Coughing

Coughing is your body’s way of trying to get rid of mucus. But constant, uncontrollable coughing actually

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Legendary Italian freediver Umberto Pelizzari used to train in the Red Sea to study the breathing habits of dolphins.

He was intrigued by dolphins’ unique method for conserving their oxygen; whenever they dove for extended periods, they’d manage to slow down their heart rates and cling to a consistent core temperature. Pelizzari was keen to replicate these clever physiological adaptations in his own freediving.

If dives of nearly 500 feet underwater are any indication, he figured it out. Pelizzari was also a pioneer in static apnea training, a discipline in which a freediver holds their breath for as long as possible without any movement. Intense fare, but he approached it with an uncommon zen. Pelizzari once said: “The scuba diver dives to look around. The freediver dives to look inside.”

Pelizzari aimed for preparedness and efficiency in his dangerous dives. But he prized relaxation. Like his dolphin peers, he understood that challenges had to be met with calm, confidence and control.

At their core, Pelizzari and the many freedivers who’ve come along since him in the last three decades are masters in breath. Little wonder that they perform yoga and meditate. They’ll do whatever it takes to improve their breath control — and by extension, their capacity to survive in a dangerous environment like the ocean’s twilight zone.

By now, you’ve probably heard of breathing hacks for every anxiety or malady under the sun. Try this string of inhales to beat insomnia, put that finger on that nostril to cure depression, etc. They all blur together, which makes them easy to discount, or forget about, or never make time for.

But the truth is, breathwork works. It’s really good for you, and it really does have a wide variety of use cases. Breathing exercises can make it easier to fall asleep, or stick with running, or keep your calm in traffic. None of those situations, on their own, are as fraught as diving into the deep sea. But tallied over the course of a life, they can all take their toll.

Below, a definitive guide to cut through all the scattershot coverage on breathwork. We’ve assembled 10 exercises, and we’ve sampled them all. From pursed-lip breathing to breath of fire, each one is capable of working wonders if you’ll let them. Consider this breathwork toolkit, to be used accordingly as you visualize your next move, channeling calm, confidence and control all the while.

Box Breathing

What it is: A pretty famous technique, which is also known as square or four-sided breathing, box breathing is intended to reduce stress and anxiety.

When to use it: Whenever you’re feeling overwhelmed or anxious. Inhale for a count of four, hold your breath for four counts, exhale for four counts, and hold again for four counts. Repeat this cycle for several minutes to calm down your nervous system.

Diaphragmatic Breathing

What it is: This is the big one. Also known as belly breathing, this technique engages the diaphragm, the primary muscle responsible for efficient breathing. This technique not only improves oxygen intake but also activates the core muscles, encouraging all-around fitness.

When to use it: Ideally, you’ll want to practice diaphragmatic breathing daily to enhance lung function and core stability. Sit or lie down comfortably and place one hand on your chest and the other on your abdomen. Inhale slowly through your nose, allowing your belly to rise while keeping your chest still. Exhale slowly through your mouth, and feel your belly lower.

Alternate Nostril Breathing

What it is: A yogic breathing technique that’s said to balance the body’s energy and calm the mind.

When to use it: You don’t need to save this one for a yoga class. Whenever you need a bit of mental focus, close your right nostril with your right thumb and inhale through your left nostril. Close your left nostril with your right ring finger, release your thumb, and exhale through your right nostril. Inhale through the right nostril, close it, and exhale through the left nostril. Continue this pattern for several minutes.

Pursed-Lip Breathing

What it is: This technique can improve lung function and exercise endurance by increasing the oxygen exchange in your lungs.

When to use it: Incorporate pursed-lip breathing into activities like jogging, swimming, or cycling. Inhale slowly through your nose, then exhale through pursed lips, as if you’re blowing out a candle. (Keeping the exhale “controlled” helps maintain airway pressure.)

4-7-8 Breathing

What it is: Another technique that’s trumpeted on social media all the time, meant to quiet the mind, relax the body and make it easier to fall asleep.

When to use it: Prioritize 4-7-8 breathing for when you’re struggling with insomnia. Inhale for a count of four, hold your breath for a count of seven, and then exhale for a count of eight. Repeat this cycle three more times, and you might find yourself drifting off to dreamland.

Breath of Fire

What it is: A rapid, rhythmic breathing technique, popular in Kundalini yoga, which many practice to invigorate the body and mind.

When to use it: Practice breath of fire for up to three minutes (see how a minute feels to start) whenever you need an energy boost. With your mouth closed, take short, quick breaths in and out through your nose, focusing specifically on the exhale.

Lion’s Breath

What it is: A technique on the more playful side (maybe try this one with kids), designed to relieve facial tension, improve circulation and lighten your mood.

When to use it: Whenever you’re feeling stressed or tense, inhale deeply through your nose, then exhale forcefully through your mouth while extending your tongue and making a “HA” sound.

Sitali Breath

What it is: A cooling technique that can help lower your body temperature.

When to use it: Practice this one after an intense workout or on a hot day to cool down. Stick your tongue out and curl the sides to form a tube. (It’s easier than it sounds). Inhale through the tube, drawing in cool air, then close your mouth and exhale through your nose. Repeat this process for several minutes to experience a refreshing effect.

Resonant Breathing

What it is: Also known as coherent breathing, the technique helps synchronize your heart rate and respiration in the name of relaxation.

When to use it: Practice resonant breathing whenever you need to unwind or relax. Inhale slowly for a count of five, then exhale slowly for a count of five. Maintaining this five-second, inhale-exhale pattern creates a breathing rate of six breaths per minute, which is believed to optimize cardiovascular function and promote relaxation.

Breath Retention

What it is: Also known as kumbhaka, it’s a technique used in yoga and meditation practices to increase focus, mental clarity and self-awareness.

When to use it: Practice breath retention whenever you want to improve your concentration and ability to stay present. Inhale deeply and hold your breath for a comfortable length of time, then exhale slowly and completely. Pause for a moment before your next inhale, and repeat the cycle.

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When we think about self-care, we often picture an adult walking, getting a massage or taking a vacation. It Is important for adults to take care of themselves to better their emotional, mental and physical health. Just as adults need this break, children do too. Children might not have as stressful situations at school as adults do at their work but circumstances affecting parents can impact the child. If a family is going through a loss, a divorce or any other difficult situation, children become aware of this and they may not be able to understand what they are feeling. Teaching your children about self-care at a young age helps them learn it’s important to prioritize mental, emotional and physical well-being. Here are a few ways to introduce self-care practices with your children:

There are many fun ways children can be active while helping them destress. For younger children, you can walk, go to the park, play a sport or do yoga. Yoga is one of my favorite exercises for children to do, as a certified children’s yoga instructor, I saw how much fun they had. There are many books for yoga at the local libraries or grocery stores. They provide poses with different animals. You may also look kid’s yoga videos on Youtube for more fun ideas!

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It's Okay to Talk About Emotions

Learning about our emotions and identifying them is important to do since a young age. There are many adults who struggle to manage their emotions and how they react to them. If your child is having a difficult time, sit down with them and talk about what is going on. There are many emotion charts you may download and print or pull up on a device. Sit down and take time to explore the different emotions and label them. Also, you may have a stress ball or a stuffed animal, any object that will help your child self soothe.

Children are very active and some are more extroverted, but even the most extroverted children need a break. Try to incorporate into the daily routine some quiet activities such as reading a book, coloring, laying down with a sound machine or have independent quiet playtime. This can be done in small amounts of ten minutes and that will allow the child to calm their bodies.

Sometimes all we need to do is take a breath. Lay down or sit down with your child and practice belly breathing or just inhaling and exhaling 3 times. This will help them reset and continue with their activities. There are many books with breathing exercises, I recommend “Breathe like a Bear” by Kira Willey. It provides many exercises on breathing and practicing mindfulness.

For more ideas please visit: If you have any questions, please contact me at my office number: 402-821-2151 or my email: [email protected]. I serve Saline, Gage, Jefferson and the Southeast area.

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As Stress Awareness Month winds down and Mental Health Awareness Month begins, it’s more relevant than ever to find helpful ways to reduce the burden of stress in your life. “Our level of regulation — or dysregulation, as the case may be — feeds into everything we do,” says Aurena Green, LGPC, RYT, a Clifton-based mental health counselor with the Viva Center. “It impacts our connection with others, our connection with ourselves, and even the quality of our work.” Stress itself is inevitable, says Green, but the way we approach it and support ourselves through it is what’s going to determine how much it impacts us — and for how long. Increasing nervous system flexibility means giving yourself the gift of moving through life with a greater sense of ease and flow — which is going to feed into every single area of your life. 

You can start by taking steps toward overall wellness and quality of life, beginning with learning how to better manage your stress.  

The types of coping tools that you implement depends upon the level of stress that you are experiencing. Typically, this is broken down into three categories: mild, moderate, and acute. And it’s important to first determine your stress level to ensure you choose and implement proper coping techniques.  

Mild Stress Management 

For milder stress levels or even just for stress maintenance, one might implement some gentle meditation, suggests Green. “This helps you to feel more grounded and promotes a feeling of readiness to take on whatever comes next.” 

Crafting a gratitude list or practicing some freestyle writing to get out any thoughts or feelings floating around in your head are also great ways to maintain or manage mild stress, Green says. 

And it’s always great to get outside and get your feet in the grass to do some Earthing, she adds.“ Nature is a great healer and spending time outside enhances a feeling of connectedness within yourself, your senses and the world around you,” Green says. 

Moderate Stress Management 

For those with a more moderate level of stress or those who can feel it building up, something like progressive muscle relaxation (PMR) could be useful. 

You can find guided PMR medications for this on apps like YouTube and Calm. 

This involves tensing and relaxing the muscles in each body part as a way of inviting intentional relaxation into the system. 

“This practice enables you to shift your attention from the mind to the body, which is particularly helpful if you find yourself getting lost in your thoughts,” explains Green. “It also offers a sense of control in that you are voluntarily tensing and releasing different muscle groups.” 

Another technique to manage moderate stress is pinpointing one area of your body that currently feels comfortable, grounded, or calm. 

Identifying one “calm place” in the body increases our capacity to shift from dysregulation to a more balanced state of being.”  

It can be something as simple as the tip of your nose, says Green. 

You then focus on this part of your body for 30 seconds. 

“Exploring this sensation helps you find a calming center in the midst of turmoil, and it’s a reminder that you can hold both calm and stress in the same body,” Green explains. “It also helps create distance from the tension of stress and enhances nervous system flexibility.” 

Acute Stress Management 

For acute stress — the highest level of stress — something like breathwork is vital, says Green. 

“This is especially helpful when we’re in that state where we find ourselves only breathing in short, shallow chest breaths,” she says. “That type of breathing brings on our fight or flight response.” 

Instead, when you find yourself experiencing high stress, try practicing deep belly breathing and focus on making the exhales longer than the inhales, Green says. This activates the parasympathetic nervous system which helps you calm down as its function is to help you rest and digest. 

Another useful coping technique is 5 4 3 2 1 grounding. 

This technique asks you to find five things you can see, four things you can touch, three things you can hear, two things you can smell, and one thing you can taste. 

“This is a helpful intervention for when the stress is at an acute level and perhaps you’re finding yourself on the brink of shutdown,” says Green. “Its purpose is to re-orient you to your surroundings and allow you to tap back into a sense of presence.”  

Lastly, Green says you could try something called a ‘sweeping hug’. 

“For this, basically what you want to do is cross your arms and bring your hands to your shoulders,” she explains. “Then, you apply gentle pressure to your shoulders and as you exhale, you sweep your hands slowly down your bicep until they reach your wrists.” 

This movement helps shift the brain into relaxation mode and boosts oxytocin, a hormone that is usually conjured by human touch and bonding. 

“In a way, it’s like giving yourself a hug,” says Green. 

Looking for more resources? Check out the Resilient Brain Project, a free comprehensive library of resources offered by the Viva Center to help support those dealing with things like grief, stress, anxiety, addiction, traumas, and more. Visit to learn more. 

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There’s no way around it: Stress is a fact of life. Between your kids, work, and relationships, it can seem like there’s always something new to worry about. And while altogether eliminating anxiety might be wishful thinking, having a plan in place to deal with those daily stressors can at least stop them from throwing your whole day off course. To aid your quest for calm, we’ve enlisted four wellness experts for this guide to relaxing your nerves in 10 common angst-producing situations.

1) You have such a busy day ahead that you’re feeling underwater before it even begins.

    The Calming Strategy: “When you’re feeling overwhelmed, it becomes difficult to take things one step at a time,” says Anne Weisman, Ph.D., director of well-being and integrative medicine at the University of Nevada in Las Vegas. One way to center yourself is to acknowledge and welcome your allotted tasks. “Pretend that ‘the overwhelm’ is in a chair across from you, and ask it what it’s doing there,” Weisman recommends. Grab a piece of paper and write down what your anxiety is telling you, and then continue asking questions and writing answers until it has tired itself out.

    Now read back what you’ve written. With your responsibilities listed out on the page, instead of piled up in your head, you have a checklist of duties to tackle one by one. Finally, to avoid getting sidetracked, try an adaptogen like Arete Adaptogens Shroomy Mushroom Energy Root Strength Powder, which is designed to support your energy and keep you focused, with less anxiety-inducing caffeine than coffee.

    2) You’re so nervous about a work presentation that your stomach is doing backflips.

    The Calming Strategy: As counterintuitive as this sounds, nerves before a presentation aren’t inherently bad—too little excitement can make you lethargic and uninspiring. But to ensure your confidence remains high, start preparing several weeks ahead by visualizing what the task will be like, picturing the room and the other participants. If you feel anxiety flaring up, stop and take a deep breath before trying again. “Mentally rehearsing this way allows your brain to rewire itself to associate presenting with relaxation, rather than anxiety,” says Craig Kain, Ph.D., a licensed psychologist and psychotherapist in Long Beach, California.

    An hour before you present, give yourself time to enjoy your surroundings. Listen to music, talk to a loved one, or sip a glass of water with Bach Rescue Remedy, a calming flower essence. Then, immediately beforehand, do four rounds of box breathing: Inhale slowly while counting to four, hold your breath while counting to four, and then exhale while counting to four.

    young businesswoman looking stressed out in an office

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    3) You have a party to attend, but you get jumpy around a lot of people.

    The Calming Strategy: Social anxiety before big gatherings is far from uncommon, especially since the pandemic. To calm your nerves, “do what’s called soft-belly breathing before the event, or in a bathroom at the event,” Weisman says. Sit comfortably, and either close your eyes or relax your gaze. Breathe in through your nose and think “soft,” then exhale through your mouth and think “belly.” “This exercise naturally calms the nervous system and helps you return your awareness to the present moment,” she says. Once you’re calmer, add visualization. Who’s with you at the party? What are you wearing? Is there food? What does it look and smell like? Manifest the party you want to be at.

    4) You need to have a difficult conversation with a friend, and you can’t stop thinking about all the different ways it could go wrong.

    The Calming Strategy: Visualizing potential outcomes when you’re anticipating an event is normal. “It’s the mark of an intelligent person,” says Shaun S. Nanavati, Ph.D., cofounder and chief science officer of the anxiety app AQ. Yet anxiety can lead to “catastrophizing,” where you start envisioning the worst possible outcome. To prevent this, visualize a safe space in which the conversation can take place. “Engage your senses internally, so that you notice the time of day and the light, sensations, and sounds,” Nanavati says. Then detach yourself from the image in your mind, so you’re seeing it in the third person, like a film director watching two people talking. Ask yourself how you would direct your character in a way that creates a positive mood for the scene.

    5) You pick up your phone to check something. Before you know it, you’re doom-scrolling through your social media feeds, and becoming ever more existentially fearful.

    The Calming Strategy: While social media’s addictive nature can easily hijack your attention, you can break this habit—and even feel better about the occasional relapse. First, turn off your phone for 15 minutes to reset your mind. Then, to prevent yourself from returning to such a heightened state of dependence on your screen, schedule specific times during the day for social media breaks. If possible, go for a walk in nature without your phone to reconnect with the real world around you. Most important, don’t blame yourself for being attached to your phone. It’s something everyone is dealing with, and can only be addressed by finding positive alternatives.

    man in bed on phone

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    6) Your parents are struggling with their health, your kids are having issues at school, and on top of it all, your dog is sick. You’re being pulled in every direction.

    The Calming Strategy: Remember how you’re always told on airplanes to place an oxygen mask on your own face before helping others in an emergency? The same rule applies in daily life. “If you’re putting everybody else first and not taking care of yourself, you won’t be able to take care of others,” says Lienna Wilson, Psy.D., a licensed psychologist in Princeton, New Jersey. So plan time for self-care habits like meditating, exercising, or getting together with a friend. Then, and only then, take stock of what you need to do for others.

    Also, while you can’t predict life’s twists and turns, you can organize them. Keeping a calendar allows you to proactively spread out your caretaking responsibilities: It’s better to take care of one person every other day than three people in one day. And if you’re still having trouble de-escalating, consider snacking on Olly Goodbye Stress gummies, which contain a blend of ingredients meant to mellow you out.

    7) You had a fight with somebody close to you. You keep replaying the argument and stressing about what it means for your relationship.

    The Calming Strategy: “Your emotions are heightened after a fight, which can lead to rumination,” Wilson says. To bring them back down, practice the STOP technique: Stop and pause before making any decisions, no matter how sure you feel. Take a step back to untangle yourself from any complicated fallout from the fight. Observe the situation from an objective perspective, and consider all the possible outcomes. Finally, proceed, with the knowledge that you have assessed the situation from multiple angles and are committed to acting rationally instead of emotionally.

    8) You just finished an intense evening workout, and now you’re so keyed up that you can’t wind down.

    The Calming Strategy: Completing a workout is a solid achievement, but so is getting the rest you need afterward. If you frequently find yourself unable to relax after physical activity, consider moving your workout to an earlier time of day or dialing down the intensity. If your schedule only allows you to train at night, “reserve several minutes for gentle stretching or calming yoga after your workout to help your body and mind relax,” Kain says.

    9) It’s time for bed, but your brain is focused on your worries, making it hard to sleep.

    The Calming Strategy: Try progressive muscle relaxation, in which you tense up and relax parts of your body, starting with your feet and moving up to your head. Or give diaphragmatic breathing a shot. “It stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system to elicit a relaxation response,” Kain says. Place one hand on your chest and the other on your belly. Inhale through your nose until you feel your stomach expand—this lets you know that you’re breathing into your diaphragm. Then slowly exhale through your mouth and feel your stomach contract. Another solid option is incorporating a supplement with ingredients meant to relax into your nighttime routine, like Neuriva Relax & Sleep with Shoden Ashwagandha & L-Theanine.

    senior couple sleeping

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    10) You wake up at 3 a.m. and can’t stop ruminating on the future.

    The Calming Strategy: Rumination is your brain’s way of trying to find an answer. “It’s in part a defense mechanism, where the limbic system and brain stem act to anticipate future threats and develop protective solutions,” says Danielle Kelvas, M.D., chief medical advisor to Sleepline, a website that provides resources for improving sleep. But the process can also cause distress and insomnia, which can trigger panic attacks and worsen symptoms of depression and anxiety. To settle yourself down, Kelvas recommends practicing mindfulness meditation every night before bed. Over time, you’ll be able to see these sorts of thoughts coming from a distance, and understand that your brain is simply trying to protect you.

    Dietary supplements are products intended to supplement the diet. They are not medicines and are not intended to treat, diagnose, mitigate, prevent, or cure diseases. Be cautious about taking dietary supplements if you are pregnant or nursing. Also, be careful about giving supplements to a child, unless recommended by their healthcare provider.

    Arete Adaptogens Shroomy Mushroom Energy Root Strength Powder

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    Neuriva Relax & Sleep with Shoden Ashwagandha & L-Theanine

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Knowing how to breathe properly while out on a run will help you go further, which is exactly what you want to do at this year’s Wings for Life World Run to stay ahead of the Catcher Car.

The event takes place each year and is in support of finding a cure for spinal cord injuries.

If you can’t make it to one of the course locations, you can still take part in the run no matter where you are. All you have to do is download the Wings for Life World Run App and you’ll be off the starting line at the same time as everyone else around the world.

To help get you prepared, we put together the best breathing exercises that will let you run longer.

Kristian Blummenfelt running in Bergen, Norway

© Emil Sollie / Red Bull Content Pool

The relationship between running speed and oxygen intake is known as your ‘running economy.’ The more efficiently you can convert oxygen into forward motion, the better. As your muscle’s workload increases, more carbon dioxide is produced within your system. If there’s no oxygen to flush it out, there will be a build-up of lactic acid, which can cause cramps, muscle pains and shortness of breath!

5 Breathing Exercises for Runners

Below, we take you through 5 controlled breathing exercises that are as important for muscle oxygenation as interval training. They will also help you strengthen your mental toughness and help you hit your personal bests in terms of distance and time.

Participant at the Wings for Life World Run event in Le Fousseret, France

© Julien Blanc for Wings for Life World Run

Patterned breathing exercises help you tone your diaphragm and gain more control over your breathing. When you get good at this exercise, you will be able to take deeper breaths and improve your running economy.

How to start using patterned breathing:

  • Step 1: start by walking and base your breathing on your strides. For example, inhale for two steps, and exhale for the same amount — this is called the 2:2 breathing pattern

  • Step 2: keep this pattern up for 1-2 minutes

  • Step 3: once you feel comfortable, speed up your pace and start running while still breathing based on your strides

These exercises can vary in formation, depending on your desired goal and pace. Use a 2:2 breathing pattern for short sprints or races and a 3:3 or 4:4 breathing pattern for longer training or races. Ultimately, paced breathing can help you run with more power and efficiency even as you start to fatigue.


Belly Breathing or Diaphragmatic Breathing

Tom Evans at the Wings for Life World Run Flagship Run in Vienna, Austria

© Matthias Heschl for Wings for Life World Run

This type of deep abdominal breathing strengthens your diaphragm (the muscles that control your breathing). This exercise is particularly helpful if you have shallow breath, which causes tension in the shoulders resulting in cramps and backache. Since this type of breathing allows you to take in more air, there is a reduced likelihood of experiencing stitches.

Here’s how you practice belly breathing in three simple steps:

  • Step 1: breathe in through your nose and fill your stomach with oxygen

  • Step 2: when your belly has expanded, push your diaphragm down and out

  • Step 3: when you exhale, make sure to lengthen your breath so they are longer than when you inhale

To begin with, try doing this exercise lying on the floor. Once you get the hang of it, implement it while you're running by slowing down your pace and following the steps above.

Participants at the Copenhagen Marathon 2022 in Copenhagen

© Esben Zøllner Olesen / Red Bull Content Pool

This technique focuses on making your inhales and your exhales the same length. It makes your breathing slow and steady, which helps immensely with pacing yourself. Although it seems easy, this is one of the more difficult exercises since it’s all about discipline and control.

  • Step 1: breath in and out through your nose

  • Step 2: make sure each inhale and exhale are of equal duration

  • A great trick is to choose a word or a short phrase to repeat while inhaling and exhaling

Although this exercise is the hardest to master, it is the easiest to implement while you are running as it doesn’t require any physical manipulation of your body. It’s useful because it ensures there is enough oxygen exchange in your system which will improve your stamina and help you to run further distances.


Alternating Nostrils Breathing also known as Nadi Shodhana

Alternate nostril breathing comes from yoga practices. It’s also known as ‘Nadi Shodhana Pranayama’ which means “subtle energy clearing breathing technique” in Sanskrit. This technique is known to lower stress and improve cardiovascular function.

This method is easy and you can do it in 5 simple steps:

  • Step 1: lift your right hand up and press your first and middle finger towards your palm and leave the other fingers extended. When you exhale, use your thumb to close your right nostril

  • Step 2: inhale through your left nostril and then close it with your pinky and ring finger and release your thumb from your right nostril

  • Step 3: exhale out of your right nostril and inhale again

  • Step 4: close your right nostril and then release your left nostril and inhale, then exhale

  • Step 5: repeat this cycle for up to 5 minutes

Again, until you get the hang of this method, sit down while you practice. Once you feel comfortable and know how to execute the cycles, try this exercise as a part of your pre-run stretches or jogging warm-up. It’ll help you to increase your lung capacity by strengthening your diaphragm, so it’ll take longer for you to feel out of breath.

Pursed-lip breathing will reduce the impact on your lungs while running. It slows your breathing by keeping your airways open longer — this makes it easier for oxygen to enter your bloodstream and flush out the carbon dioxide build-up in your muscles.

Follow these three steps to try the exercise out:

  • Step 1: inhale through your nostrils

  • Step 2: purse your lips as if you were pouting

  • Step 3: breathe out as slowly as you can through your pursed lips. It should take twice as long for you to exhale

This exercise is much easier than diaphragmatic breathing and has a similar effect on your system. You can easily implement while you are running as long as you are focused on your breathwork.


Breathing Exercises and Techniques for Cold Weather Climates

While many of the breathing exercises outlined above can help no matter the weather climate, there are a few others that can give you a bit of a boost when running in colder weather.

Layers are the key to winter running

© Adrian Pop for Wings for Life World Run

Knowing the different techniques will help keep your body warm, increase your oxygen intake, and improve your overall lung function.

Alternate Between Inhaling and Exhaling Through Your Nose and Mouth

If you have ever run in cold weather you know what it feels like to take a deep breath through your nose. But this can sometimes be a good thing versus inhaling through your mouth because it takes longer for the air to reach your lungs, helping to warm it up along the way.

Try to take steady inhales through your nose and then breathe out through your mouth. However, the downfall here is that it all depends on the intensity of your run. The harder you go, the more difficult it is to have enough oxygen when breathing in through your nose.

Alternating between inhaling and exhaling through your nose and mouth can be very helpful as you’re starting your run and warming your body up. Once you get a comfortable level and have acclimated to the temperature, you can switch to only breathing through your mouth.

Start Slow and Increase the Distance As You Go

Intense runs outside in the cold weather can have negative effects on your airways and make it even harder to breathe. Don’t just jump right into a full race pace your first time out — work your way up to a comfortable level and allow your body to adjust to the different elements.

Start by going for slower-paced, shorter runs and establish a base mileage and then you can steadily increase your distance. If it’s really cold, it can be better to focus on longer and easier runs to ensure your airways can keep up with the temperature instead of a high-intensity run.

On top of other breathing exercises like alternate nostril breathing, deep breathing, and diaphragmatic breathing, Buteyko breathing can be another technique to add to your bag — especially in cold weather. It involves minimizing the total number of breaths you take each minute.

There's nothing like a fresh winter run

© Keri Wallace

Focusing on this breathing technique can help limit the possibility of a respiratory infection and improve how efficient your breathing is. All you need to do is take a deep inhale through your nose and then continue to exhale back through your nose, not your mouth.

After you exhale, hold your breath for an extended amount of time (not too long, however) and then continue to repeat this process. You’ll find that after the first few times of doing the exercise you’re going to be more comfortable with the technique, and then you can do it as long as it’s needed.


3 Tips for How to Properly Breathe When Running

Participants at Red Bull Quicksand in Almaty, Kazakhstan

© Victor Magdeyev / Red Bull Content Pool

Here are some general steps to maximize oxygen intake while running. These will help you control your breathing, regulate your pace and maximize your energy.

  1. Know when to breathe out of your nose vs your mouth. If you’re running at a slow pace, you can use nasal breathing or choose to inhale through your nose and exhale through your mouth. But if you’re running at a faster pace, and are struggling to catch your breath, you might find it easier to breathe through your mouth.

  2. Stick to a rhythm, this allows you to take in more oxygen. Alternate your exhalations between your right and left foot, this will reduce the impact of your feet hitting the floor on your diaphragm. This impact can equal up to 4 times your body-weight. Using an alternating breathing technique will help reduce the chance of injury as both sides of your body are absorbing this weight.

  3. Finally, focus on your form. In order to maximize breathing depth, you need to maintain good posture while running. Keep your head up and in line with your spine, making sure your shoulders aren’t hunched.

Strengthen Your Breathing and Hit Your Personal Best

Overall, breathing exercises are a great way to build stamina — whether you’re a beginner, a seasoned sprinter or training for a competition. These techniques, combined with perfecting your stride, will help you gain control over your performance!
And that’s the beautiful thing about the Wings for Life World Run – runners of any skill level can take part and it doesn’t matter where you’re located. You can join one of the organized runs closest to your location or you can do the App Run, which is where you do your own race and use the app to track your progress and try to stay ahead of the catcher car.
This year’s event takes place on May 7, 2023 and all proceeds from the run go directly to help fund spinal cord research. You can learn more about the race and sign up by heading to Wings For Life World Run website.

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MirchiMirchiUpdated: 59 min ago
3 Breathing techniques for whenever you feel anxious

Breathing is an essential and automatic process that we hardly pay attention to. It involves inhaling oxygen, which is transported to the blood cells, and exhaling carbon dioxide, a waste product. However, when we experience anxiety or panic attacks, our breathing can become irregular, disrupting the balance between oxygen and carbon dioxide in our body. This can lead to various physical and emotional symptoms such as fatigue, restlessness, and anxiety. In this article, we'll explore effective breathing techniques that can help alleviate anxiety and promote relaxation. Discover how you can use these simple yet powerful exercises to overcome anxiety and stress.

1. Belly breathing


The American Institute of Stress recommends practicing "belly breathing" or diaphragmatic breathing for 20 to 30 minutes every day to alleviate stress and anxiety. To begin, find a peaceful and comfortable spot to sit or lie down, such as a chair, cross-legged position, or lying on your back with a pillow beneath your head and knees.

Next, place one hand on your upper chest and the other on your belly, below the ribcage. Let your stomach relax, avoiding the urge to tense or contract your muscles. Take a slow and deep breath in through your nose, allowing the air to move down into your nose and belly, causing your stomach to rise as you inhale. Exhale slowly through slightly pursed lips, keeping an eye on the hand on your chest, which should remain relatively still. With practice, you can improve your belly breathing technique and reduce anxiety and stress.

2. 4-7-8 Technique
The 4-7-8 breathing technique, known as the relaxing breath, can naturally calm the nervous system. To begin, sit with your back straight. Once you're comfortable with the exercise, you can try it while lying down.

During the exercise, keep the tip of your tongue against the ridge of tissue behind your upper front teeth. Then, exhale through your mouth with a "whoosh" sound. Close your mouth and inhale quietly through your nose, counting to four. Hold your breath for a count of seven, then exhale completely through your mouth with a whoosh sound to a count of eight. With regular practice, this breathing exercise can help reduce stress and anxiety.

3. Mindfulness breathing


and avoiding thoughts about the past or future. Mindfulness breathing exercises can serve the same purpose.

To practice mindfulness breathing, choose a calming focus like a sound, positive word, or phrase to silently repeat while inhaling or exhaling. For example, you could use "om," "peace," or "breathe in calm, breathe out tension." As you breathe, let go of any distractions or tension. If your mind wanders, take a deep breath and gently redirect your attention to the present moment. With practice, mindfulness breathing exercises can become a valuable tool in reducing anxiety and promoting relaxation.

(We hope that the advice is helpful, however, this is strictly the author's view. We strongly advise you to consult an expert for a professional opinion.)

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Many people suffer from stress headaches, heart burn, back ache, they are unable to sleep and are more prone to infections as stress interferes with their immune system. Stress can increase their blood sugar as it causes your liver to release glucose, it can adversely affect your sexual performance, make you more at risk of a heart attack or stroke and contribute to mental health problems.

If you’re feeling stressed, whether by your job or something more personal, the first step to feeling better is to identify the cause.

The most destructive approach is turn to something unhealthy to help you cope, such as smoking, drinking or binge-eating comfort food.


Stress hormones: Exercise actually lowers your body’s stress hormones – such as cortisol. It also helps release endorphins, which are chemicals that boost mood and can act as natural painkillers.

Sleep: Exercise can also improve your sleep quality.

Confidence: regular exercise can contribute to mental wellbeing.

Deep breathing exercises

Cortisol in your bloodstream activates your sympathetic nervous system, signalling the fright, flight or fight response.

In response to this, your heart will beat faster, your breathing quicken and your blood vessels constrict to conserve blood flow to your vital organs.

Controlling your breathing to override this response, will activate your parasympathetic nervous system and help you relax.

The goal of deep breathing is to focus your awareness on your breath, making it slower and deeper. When you breathe in deeply through your nose, your lungs fully expand and your belly rises. There are several types of deep breathing exercises, including diaphragmatic breathing, abdominal breathing, belly breathing and paced respiration.

Understanding how to control your breathing is extremely helpful in combating panic attacks.

Often mindfulness courses and yoga will incorporate deep breathing exercises.

Take control

Feeling a loss of control is a key contributor to that panicky feeling.

The act of taking control is empowering in its own right and depending on the reason for the stress, may instantly relieve some of the panic

Say no

Again, part of taking control. Simplifying the number of things you are doing and who you are trying to please, should help reduce the stress in your life.

Alongside this – delegate. If someone else is able to take the strain – let it go!

Stop procrastinating

If you have things on your mind that you need to do – get them done! Dilly dallying will lead to an increase in stress as you rush to try and complete them, when the deadline approaches.

Click here for our Enhanced Mental Health First Aid course in collaboration with the Maudsley

Write things down

One way to handle stress is to write things down. When the brain is trying to remember things it can be stressful in itself. The act of writing things down brings order to some people’s thought processes and can consequently be calming.

Spend time with friends and family

Spending time with friends and family can help you get through stressful times.

It is thought that spending time socialising helps release Oxytocin, which is a natural stress reliever and it reduces the effect of cortisol.

Increase physical contact

Harder to do in the midst of a pandemic. But if you have people within your bubble, cuddling, kissing, hugging and sex can all help relieve stress.

Positive physical contact helps release oxytocin and lower cortisol. Consequently, lowering blood pressure and heart rate and reducing the fluttering of stress and anxiety.

Spend time with a pet (or cuddle a baby!)

Stroking a pet can have an incredibly calming effect. Once again it is the caring interaction that is thought to release oxytocin and counter the effects of stress.

Owning a pet can also give someone a sense of purpose, encourage exercise and providing companionship. However owning a pet when you are unable to look after them properly can provoke additional stress and worry!

Take some Me Time

Take time out to do things that you really enjoy. This can be with friends or family, or on your own. But it is your choice as to how you would like to spend your time, not something you are doing to please someone else!

Challenge yourself! Learn a new skill or language or do something to stretch your abilities and gain a sense of satisfaction from completing it. The sense of achievement will contribute to your sense of wellbeing.


Laughter can improve your immune system and mood, it relaxes your muscles and can lead to a feeling of well-being.

Herbal remedies

Check with your pharmacist to be sure they do not interact with any other prescription medication that you may be taking. Some of the following could also have side-effects.

Lemon balm: Lemon balm is a member of the mint family that is known for its soothing and anti-anxiety properties.

Omega-3 fatty acids: can potentially help.

Ashwagandha: Ashwagandha is an herb used in Ayurvedic medicine to treat stress and anxiety.

Green tea: Green tea contains many polyphenol antioxidants which provide health benefits. It can lower stress and anxiety by increasing serotonin levels.

Valerian: Valerian root promotes sleep. It contains valerenic acid, which alters gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) receptors, thought to reduce anxiety.

Kava kava: Kava kava is a member of the pepper family. The indigenous people of the South Pacific have long used it as a sedative, it is thought to be beneficial in reducing stress and anxiety.

Peppermint or chamomile tea both have soothing properties.

Click here for a Mental Health First Aid course for Young People and Children


Using essential oils or burning a scented candle helps many people reduce feelings of stress and anxiety.

Some scents can be especially soothing.

  • Lavender – good for promoting sleep too
  • Rose
  • Vetiver
  • Bergamot
  • Roman chamomile
  • Neroli
  • Frankincense
  • Sandalwood
  • Ylang ylang
  • Orange or orange blossom
  • Geranium

Reduce your caffeine intake

Caffeine is a stimulant found in foods such as coffee, tea, chocolate and energy drinks. High doses can increase anxiety and make it harder to sleep.

Chew gum

Chewing gum is thought to relax tension in the jaw muscles and some studies suggest that it increases blood flow to your brain.


Yoga has become a popular method of stress relief and exercise and is helpful in promoting a feeling of calm wellbeing as well as improving your body’s tone and flexibility.


Mindfulness is a way of thinking, to reduce your mind wandering. It can be extremely helpful in reducing the anxiety-inducing effects of negative thinking. There are many apps that can help you practice this, such as Headspace.

Listen to soothing music

Listening to music can have a very relaxing effect on the body. Slow-paced instrumental music can help you feel more relaxed and help lower blood pressure, heart rate and reduce stress hormones.

Classical, Celtic, Native American and Indian music along with nature sounds, have particularly relaxing affects on the body. However listening to music you enjoy is also mood enhancing and relaxing.

Men’s mental health

Suicide is the biggest killer in men. Men may not always good at recognising stress in themselves, and stress is clearly an individual experience. What one man finds stressful, another will not. What can be stressful at one time may not cause stress during another time. And the signs and symptoms of stress can also vary from person to person and from year to year. National Stress Awareness Day is a great opportunity to start conversations. Take a moment to think about your own and others wellbeing and find advice or support on managing stress.


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RosZie/1222 images/Pixabay

RosZie/1222 images/Pixabay

Just breathe. Sound familiar? These two words are ubiquitous. Whether trying to decrease stress, anxiety, and muscle tension or increase our focus and centeredness, we are frequently encouraged to breathe.

There is a good reason for this, particularly when it comes to muscle tension and pain. Physical pain and emotional stress often go hand in hand. When we are stressed, our muscles tense, and this tension can increase the physical sensation of pain. Pain can also cause stress, increasing muscle tension and creating more pain. Also, it is common to hold our breath when we are stressed or in pain. I catch myself holding my breath all the time. Unfortunately, doing so increases pain and stress.

So, one helpful way to manage stress and chronic pain is to practice relaxing our muscles and nervous system via breathing exercises. These exercises may sound simple yet consistently practicing them can be easier said than done.

Many helpful breathing exercises exist, and I am going to outline some of my favorites. While it is true that there are times when it is beneficial to engage in longer relaxation exercises — If your muscles are particularly tense, it may take 15 to 20 minutes to feel a sense of relaxation — I am a fan of practicing brief exercises that you can quickly, and realistically, implement regularly.

1. Breathe Slowly and Rhythmically

Practice breathing in and out slowly. Imagine your breath is a wave in the ocean that is slowly coming into shore and then slowly receding back into the ocean. See if you can practice breathing slowly and steadily for about two to five minutes (or longer as helpful).

2. Breathe Through Your Nose

It can be helpful to practice breathing from your nose only. This helps us breathe more slowly, aiding stress relief and muscle relaxation. So, practice keeping your mouth closed and breathing in and out from your nose. Again, breathe slowly.

3. Lengthen the Exhale Portion of Your Breath

The exhale part of the breath is the most relaxing. The exhale is like a brake for our nervous system helping it slow down. Practice making the exhale portion of the breath longer than the inhale. For example, if you naturally inhale to a count of three, practice slowly exhaling to a count of five.

4. Breathe From Your Belly

Diaphragmatic or belly breathing tends to be the most relaxing type of breath. This is because when you breathe using your belly, you stimulate the vagus nerve which activates the relaxation response, reducing your heart rate and blood pressure and lowering stress. With belly breathing, you want to breathe deeply into your belly.

To practice, sit or lie down, and place one hand on your chest and the other hand on your belly. Slowly inhale through your nose, practicing keeping the hand on your chest still, and allowing the movement to come from your belly. When you inhale, your belly should rise as if you have a balloon in your belly that is filling with air, and when you slowly exhale, your belly should gently collapse as if the balloon is deflating.

If you are not familiar with belly breathing it can take practice. To start, you can sit in a chair and lean forward placing your elbows on your knees while breathing naturally and slowly. This position forces you to breathe from your belly so you can get to know what the sensation feels like.

Brief (Can Be) Best

Sometimes longer practice is most helpful. Yet, I am a fan of consistent, brief practice throughout the day. This may mean taking a few intentional breaths throughout your day or sitting and breathing for several minutes. One quick way to practice is to pause multiple times per day and take about three to five intentional breaths using one of the breathing styles from the exercises above.

Don’t Wait to Practice

It is important to not wait until tension and pain increase to practice these exercises. They will be most effective if you initially practice them when you are not in a lot of pain. This will help you to remember to use them and will make them more effective when your pain increases.

So, slow down and breathe on!

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