Health and Wellness

5-minute Breathing Exercises to Help You De-stress Anywhere

It's normal to feel a rise in stress this time of year—more than 60% of Americans report elevated stress at the holidays. When you pair that with the stressors of a pandemic, you get an unusually tense holiday season.

And this is all on top of a pandemic that is affecting our holiday plans and whether we can see family or not.

What does that all boil down to? The understanding that stress is prevalent this holiday season. And there are other quick science-backed ways to center yourself and find calm when panic begins to bubble up.

Focus on your breathing. Breathing is the basis for many meditative and calming technique. Breathing exercises are intended to regulate, slow and deepen your breathing, which “down-regulates” or calms your nervous system. Deep breathing stimulates the vagus nerve, which is a part of our parasympathetic nervous system—the rest and digest response that slows and regulates our heart rates, lowers our blood pressure, and relaxes our muscles. It sends our body the overall message that “everything is okay.” The vagus nerve also tells the brain that all systems are now chill, which brings you a sense of peacefulness.

The best part is that there are many different ways to focus on your breathing, you are bound to find one that feels good. Here are four to try.

For all of these, it’s helpful to find a relaxed comfortable position sitting or lying down. But you can do them anywhere at any time—in the car, cooking dinner, even during a work meeting. Notice how fast they help you settle.

1. Belly breathing is a good beginner breathing exercise to help you become aware of your breath and deepen it.

  • Place one hand on your stomach and the other on your chest.
  • As you breathe in, let the air fill your belly and push your hand out.
  • When you breathe out, notice how your hand moves inward and let it help you push all the air out.
  • Repeat 5 to 10 times or set a timer for 5 minutes.

2. Equal breathing is great for when your heartbeat is fast or feels irregular. Studies show that it can help regulate it.

  • Match the time you breathe in to the time you breathe out (try a count of five or an amount that feels good to you).
  • Repeat 5 to 10 times or set a timer for 5 minutes.
  • Increase the length of your exhales and inhales as you get comfortable.

3. Paced breathing helps slow your heart beat, because it tends to quicken on the inhale and slow on the exhale.

  • Breathe in through your nose for two to four seconds.
  • Breathe out through your mouth for four to fix seconds.
  • You can adjust the amount of time so it’s comfortable for you, just keep your exhalation longer than the inhalation.
  • Try making a woosh sound as you exhale to help deepen it.
  • Repeat 5 to 10 times or for 5 minutes.

4. 365 breathing is popular with therapists who advocate making this kind of stress relieving exercise a daily routine. Studies suggest that beyond helping in a particular moment of stress, a consistent breathing practice may make permanent changes in your brain that render you more resilient in moments of stress.

  1. Take a breathing break three times a day (3).
  2. Inhale for 5 seconds, exhale for 5 seconds for a total of five minutes. That gives you 6 breathing cycles per minute (6).
  3. Do it every day (365).

If you’re looking for guidance on how to better manage stress during this time, the Care team is here to help. Open the app today to speak with a doctor, nurse practitioner or nurse in minutes.

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