When it comes to managing stress, breathing is one of the most effective tools you have. In stressful situations, such as during the holiday season, you may find yourself shallow breathing, which limits the amount of oxygen your lungs receive and exacerbates feelings of anxiety and tension. However, by taking deeper and more controlled breaths, you can increase the amount of oxygen your lungs receive, which helps lower your heart rate, relieve stress, and make you feel more relaxed. The next time you feel anxious, take a moment to practice one of the following breathing techniques to help you find solace.

Breathing technique basics

Before getting started, make sure you find a stress-free location to perform the exercise and wear comfortable clothing. Also, if you would like to practice your breathing as a regular habit, try performing the exercise at the same time once or twice each day.

Abdominal breathing

This type of breathing can be done in multiple positions. Perform this exercise by sitting or lying down and following these steps:

  1. Place one hand on your chest and your other hand on your stomach, just below your ribs.
  2. Inhale slowly through your nose, filling your lungs and causing your stomach to rise. Your chest should not move.
  3. Exhale slowly through pursed lips (like you are whistling). The hand on your stomach should go in while the hand on your chest remains still.
  4. Repeat until you feel calmer and more grounded.

4-7-8 breathing

This technique, developed by Dr. Andrew Weil, is based on the yoga practice pranayama. To perform it, do the following:

  1. Inhale through your nose for four seconds.
  2. Hold your breath for seven seconds.
  3. Exhale through your mouth for eight seconds.
  4. Repeat the steps three to seven times or until you feel calm.

Box breathing

This technique slows your breathing, which can help improve your concentration. Follow these steps to achieve box-breathing benefits:

  1. Breathe in through your nose for four seconds, filling your lungs.
  2. Hold your breath for four seconds.
  3. Exhale gradually through your mouth for four seconds, emptying your lungs.
  4. Wait four seconds before breathing in again and repeating.

The next time you’re feeling overwhelmed, pause and perform one of these exercises. Each breath could bring relief and a sense of calmness.