Breathing Exercises & Techniques for Anti-Anxiety and Relaxation

With so much going on in our lives, sometimes it can become difficult to catch a break and slow down to reflect. Things can get hectic, leaving people stressed, anxious, and too preoccupied with the tasks at hand that they forget to dedicate time to themselves. One way to dedicate a moment to oneself is to practice consistent breathing exercises, a practice that can help in reducing stress and anxiety. 

While you don’t have to dedicate too much time to breathing exercises, practicing once a day for a few minutes gives the time needed to recenter yourself free of distraction. 

Deep breathing exercises specifically (also referred to as diaphragmatic breathing, abdominal breathing, belly breathing, and paced respiration) have been proven to provide a full oxygen exchange in your lungs, which can slow the heartbeat and lower or stabilize blood pressure

For each of the following exercises, try to find a quiet place where you can practice. While these exercises can be done anywhere at any time, having a space dedicated to your breathing and free of distraction ensures you can get the most out of it.

Contemporary white meditation room

If you want to incorporate further relaxation into your breathing exercises, consider lighting a candle to add to the ambiance. Fragrances that invoke a sense of calm (including but limited to lavender and eucalyptus) can add to the experience as well as create further relaxation and rejuvenation. For lavender candles, our Air candle, Lavender Soulstice in the Four Elements Candle, serves as a great candle for creating relaxation due to its calming properties, promoting wellness while filling the room with the smell of fresh lavender. 

Lavender Soulstice candle for breathing meditation

General Breathing Exercises

Start by sitting down with good posture and your feet flat on the floor, closing your eyes if you’re in an environment where you’re comfortable. Take a deep breath in through your nose, exhaling through your mouth. Repeat six times, focusing solely on your breathing. When complete, open your eyes and take a moment to reflect.. 

For diaphragmatic breathing, placing your hand on your chest or stomach to feel your body physically moving during the breathing exercises can help control your oxygen intake to ensure that you’re taking nice, deep breaths. 

Tip: Take full, deep belly breaths to get the most oxygen flow in each breath.

Take deep breathes

 Stress-relief

Similar to box breathing practiced by the US Navy Seals, this exercise can invoke a sense of calm. Sitting or laying down in a comfortable position, close your eyes and breathe in through your nose for five seconds, holding your breath for another five. After the five seconds of holding your breath are complete, exhale for five seconds through the mouth. 

Anti-anxiety

Finger breathing can be a good way of bringing yourself down during an anxiety attack or during heightened levels of anxiety. Tracing the outline of your hand using the pointer finger of your opposite hand, breathe in as you trace up your finger and exhale while tracing down, trying to be consistent with your pacing. Doing this will center your focus on breathing and tracing your hand, reducing some of the attention on the actual anxiety. 

8-7-4 breathing is another good technique for reducing anxiety. Simply exhale through the mouth for eight seconds, inhale using your nose for four seconds, then  hold your breath for seven seconds, repeating the cycle for about five minutes or until you feel more calm. 

The humming breath can also be used to calm anxiety. Breathe in through your nose for about five seconds, and as you breathe out through your mouth, release the breath as a hum. Repeat five to ten times or until you feel satisfied. 

Finger breathing exercise

While there is no definite solution to anxiety or stress, consistent breathing exercises can help. Practicing these once a day can make a routine out of it which can help establish time for yourself; time that’s dedicated to restorative practices and mindfulness.