3 Breathing Exercises for Stress, Energy & Strength
Originally published at stronginsideout.com on March 30, 2015.
Every so often, I get super stressed out. Or depressed. Or angry. Or a range of other intense emotions that threaten to crush me.
Thankfully, I have a tool in my belt that keeps me strong, calm and grounded… and so do you.
Every time I get hit with these overwhelming emotions, I automatically take a deep breath. It took years to make it automatic, but here I am, able to immediately take calming action to root myself back into the present. That’s what I want for you, too!
Every breath you take has the opportunity to raise your energy levels, relieve anxiety and center you in your inner strength. Unfortunately, many of us don’t know how to harness it. We don’t know that the simple act of oxygenating our systems combined with mindfulness is all we need to turn our day around!
Today, we’re devoting our time to 3 different breathing exercises that can help you through your struggle, whether that be a tough workout, depression or just a bad day at work.
1st Step: Awareness
Before doing any of these exercises, we have to cultivate a level of awareness that triggers us to do a breathing exercise in the first place! To do that, just become aware of the situation and your emotions.
When you feel lethargic, anxious, stressed-out, depressed or lacking willpower, ask yourself this quick question:
How am I feeling and why?
When you become aware of what you’re feeling and the cause of it, it will be easier to focus on relieving the stress from its root. It will help a ton to inform the 3rd breathing exercise in this post as well!
When you have become aware, move on to your breathing exercise of choice…
Breathing for Stress/Anxiety Release
Sit upright or lie down on your back and close your eyes.
- Take a long, deep breath in through your nose, aiming to expand your belly with the air (not the chest or shoulders). I like to cup my hands over the area under my belly button so I can actually feel my belly expand.
- When you are full of air, hold the air in for 1 to 7 beats.
- Then, open your mouth to exhale all the air out slowly, contracting your belly back to your spine as you do. Make a “whooshing” sound as the air leaves your lips.
When your belly is empty, repeat steps 1–3. Continue to breathe for 10 deep breaths or as many as it takes to calm your mind and body.
This should feel calming, not rigid and forced. You should never feel short of breath or light-headed throughout this exercise. If you do, shorten the amount of time you take for each step in the cycle.
After having practiced this exercise daily for at least 2 weeks, you can add on to this exercise with one of these options:
OPTION 1: focus in on any tension you’re holding in your body. For most of us, it’s in the shoulders and neck. Focus each inhale into that area, and then envision breathing the tension out as you exhale.
OPTION 2: On the inhale, say “let,” in your head. On the exhale, say “go,” in your head. Anchoring the focus of release with these words helps some people to concentrate on the exercise and stick with it longer.
With practice even just one of these deep breaths can be enough to bring your mind back to the present and relieve stress.
Breathing for Energy
Sit up straight and close your eyes for this exercise. Warm up your diaphragm with 5–10 deep breaths as described in Breathing for Stress/Anxiety Release above.
These short, fast, powerful breaths will be noisy — you should be able to hear the air as it comes in and out the nostrils (blow your nose before you start ;)).
- Keeping your mouth closed, inhale a short, powerful breath through your nose as you expand the belly for 1 beat.
- Then, bring your belly button toward your spine as you powerfully exhale through your nose for 1 beat. The abs will work in this exercise!
- Repeat rapidly for 15 seconds with each inhale and exhale being of equal duration.
- Take an energizing deep breath to center yourself and check in with your energy levels. Are they a little better? If so, you’re done! If not, try the 15-second rapid-breathing cycle again after 5 deep, energizing breaths.
You may feel a bit light-headed after this exercise, so please take a few energizing, slower deep breaths and make sure you’re not dizzy before standing up.
With practice, you will be able to extend the length of time for this breathing exercise. I personally do 20–25 seconds for each round, so you don’t need very many.
Breathing for Inner Strength
Here’s the exercises where the Strongie touch comes in! When we apply strengthening mantras to deep breathing, there’s no limit to the amount of confidence we can inspire within ourselves.
To do this exercise, come up with a short mantra that inspires your inner strength. These are some of my favs:
- I am worth the work this takes
- Yes, I can
- Make yourself proud
- I create myself in every moment
- I choose this
Then, sit up straight and close your eyes.
- Take 5 deep breaths as detailed in the Breathing for Stress/Anxiety Release.
- After your 5th deep breath, continue the deep breathing with your mouth closed (exhaling through your nose). While you breathe, declare your chosen mantra in your head for an entire breath cycle. For example, if I’m using the mantra, “I am worth the work this takes,” I will inhale into “I am worth,” hold the breath at “the work” and exhale through my nose for “this takes.”
- Repeat for 10 breaths or more, allowing yourself to fully embrace the mantra. Give over to its power.
- When you’re ready, inhale as you open your eyes, and go into your day with power, intention and fire.
Be practicing these breathing exercises, you can train your body to react differently to stressors as you come across them. All it takes is consistency and commitment to the life you deserve.
Hope this post was a breath of fresh air for you today. :)
Amy Clover is a speaker, writer and mental health activist. This post was originally published on StrongInsideOut.com, a site devoted to helping you become stronger than your struggle through fitness, nutrition & positive action. Join the email list to get weekly inspiration + goodies >> Click here.