Mondays present an opportunity to start paying better attention to self-care and managing daily stress. One important tool to your anti-stress kit is mindfulness. DeStress Monday offers easy-to-follow mindfulness practices that may help reduce symptoms of stress. One of the most basic elements of a mindful practice is deep breathing.
Many of us don’t pay attention to the way we breathe. While it’s common to breathe from the chest, this usually involves taking shallow breaths that can actually exacerbate symptoms of anxiety. Belly breathing, or breathing deep into the lower lungs so the belly expands, allows the intake of more oxygen. This “full oxygen exchange” slows blood pressure and the heart rate, producing a calming effect for the whole body. To make sure you’re breathing deeply, visualize your whole torso taking in air like an inflating balloon, through your nose, down into your chest, all the way down to your belly.
Now that you know the “mechanical” part of deep breathing, learn the mental part that will help calm your mind. First, find a quiet area where you can be seated without being disturbed for a few minutes. Sit with your back straight, picturing a string attached to the top of your head, pulling it straight up. Take a deep breath in, but put all your concentration on to your breath. If it helps, say the word “in” to yourself as you breathe in and focus on just that word and the air filling your lungs. As you breathe out, release the air more slowly, say “out” to yourself, continuing the focus on the word and the air leaving your lungs. Repeat this several times for the duration of a minute to start. If you feel calmer (and you probably will), take a few more minutes to mindfully breathe in and out.
Another way to help you focus is our collection of animated GIFs, designed to give you a visual aid while honing your deep breathing technique.
Learning to properly deep breathe will help you build a great mindfulness practice while being effective on its own at reducing stress. This Monday, take a deep breath!