When you’re feeling stressed or anxious, it can be hard to even calm your thoughts enough to figure out what’s causing your anxiety in the first place. However, by practicing three simple breathing exercises, you can learn how to control your breathing and calm yourself down more effectively than with willpower alone.
Breathing Exercise #1 – Deep Breaths
Sit comfortably with your feet flat on the floor, knees bent, and hands on your thighs. Place one hand on your chest and one hand on your stomach (it’s possible that you may feel more breath in your chest than you do in your stomach). Inhale slowly through your nose so that both hands rise. Hold for two seconds at the top of inhalation. Now exhale slowly through your nose, as if you're blowing a feather from both nostrils down toward the floor.
Breathing Exercise #2 – Counting Breaths
As you inhale, count each breath up from 1 to 5. As you exhale, count each breath down from 5 back to 1. Practice 4-6 rounds of these deep breaths, then return to your normal breathing pattern (which will feel deeper than before). The counting helps us focus on our breathing pattern—and it distracts us from other thoughts that might pop into our head.
Breathing Exercise #3 – Alternate Nostril Breathwork
Alternate nostril breathing is a calming, energizing breathwork technique that helps balance your nervous system. Here’s how it works: Using your right thumb and forefinger, pinch your right nostril closed. Take a deep breath in through your left nostril for four seconds. Now switch and pinch your left nostril closed, taking another breath in through your right nostril for 4 seconds. Keep doing this until you feel yourself become calmer.