Feeling stressed or like your life is out of control? Tackle it by doing something you do have power over: breathing. Deep breathing is one of the best ways to lower stress in the body. It takes little time, requires no equipment, and can be done anywhere. Here are three basic breathing exercises to try.

4-7-8 (Relaxing Breath) Exercise

The 4-7-8 (Relaxing Breath) exercise is simple and calms the nervous system. Sit with your back straight. Place the tip of your tongue against your upper front teeth, and keep it there through the entire exercise. 

  • Close your mouth and inhale quietly through your nose to a mental count of four.
  • Hold your breath for a count of seven.
  • Exhale completely through your mouth, making a whoosh sound to a count of eight. This is one breath.
  •  Inhale and repeat the cycle three more times. Do this for a total of four breaths.

Stimulating Breath Exercise

The Stimulating Breath exercise is aimed is to increase energy and alertness. This is a great exercise to try next time you feel yourself reaching for a cup of coffee!

  • Inhale and exhale rapidly through your nose, keeping your mouth closed but relaxed. Your breaths in and out should be equal in duration, but as short as possible.
  • Try for three in-and-out breath cycles per second. This is a quick movement of the diaphragm. Breathe normally after each cycle.
  • Do not do the breath cycles for more than 15 seconds on your first try. Each time you practice you can increase your time by five seconds, until you reach a full minute.

Breath Counting Exercise

The Breath Counting exercise is quiet and slow. Sit in a comfortable position with your spine straight and head inclined slightly forward. Close your eyes and take a few deep breaths. Then let the breath come naturally without trying to influence it.

  • To begin, count “one” to yourself as you exhale. Focus on each breath you take.
  • The next time you exhale, count “two,” and so on up to “five.”
  • Then begin a new cycle, counting “one” on the next exhalation. Count only when you exhale. Do not count higher than “five,” as your attention might begin to wander.

For more information on lowering your stress, consider contacting your local installation Community Counseling Program or the DSTRESS Line (CONUS: 877-476-7734/OCONUS: 098.970.7734)