Master Your Stress Levels For Good With Our Beginner’s Guide To Breathwork

By Alexandra Ainsworth

Ready to commit to your wellbeing? Welcome to The Well, your go-to destination for all the inspiration you need to live the best version of yourself through evidence-based health tips from health professionals. In partnership with private health insurer, HBF, we’re helping you tap into a few things you could be doing right now to get the most out of 2023 and beyond.

For many, 2022 was the year of burnout—a lot of us felt under the crunch when it came to keeping up with work and fighting off the increased cost of living, all while not letting our personal wellbeing slide. But we’re leaving that behind in 2023 and focusing on embracing this new year anxiety free. Read on to get some intel into how breathwork can set you up for success.

Breathwork has been shown to alleviate symptoms of stress-related conditions and all it takes is a few moments of mindfulness to regulate your breathing to potentially reap the benefits. Plus, it can be done at any time, anywhere (including the office bathroom when your to-do list is stacking up). It’s a win-win strategy that can alleviate stressful work situations where anxiety can peak and is also a useful tool to help you fall asleep when your mind won’t stop racing.

There are a few different methods you can try out when it comes to focusing on your breath (which we’ll delve into below), all of which are centred around engaging the parasympathetic system. This system is responsible for helping your body relax, so learning how to actively use it is a powerful tool to help manage anxiety or feeling anxious.

The key benefits of controlled breathing include lowering your heart rate and blood pressure, as well as reduced levels of stress hormones—all of which help to bring on feelings of calmness and wellbeing. Consistent breathwork can improve memory and recognition, and help boost our overall energy levels.

Read on below for three easy-to-use techniques to incorporate into your daily routine. Trying these techniques out for the first time? Find a comfortable seated or lying position to focus on your breath. Once you get used to how these techniques work you can take them with you anywhere.

4-7-8 Breathing

Place the tip of your tongue behind your upper front teeth and keep it there throughout the exercise.

  1. Exhale completely through your mouth.
  2. Close your mouth and inhale quietly through your nose to a mental count of four.
  3. Hold your breath for a count of seven.
  4. Exhale completely through your mouth to a count of eight.

This completes one breath. Now inhale again, and repeat the cycle three more times for a total of four breaths to feel the full effects.

Nostril Breathing

  1. Take a deep breath in through your right nostril, then close it off with your thumb.
  2. Open your left nostril and exhale slowly through it.
  3. Inhale slowly through your left nostril, then close it off with your ring finger.
  4. Open your right nostril and exhale slowly through it.

This completes one cycle. Continue alternating nostrils and breathing in and out slowly and deeply until you feel your body respond.

Square Breathing

  1. Close your eyes and take a deep breath in through your nose, counting to four in your head as you do so.
  2. Hold your breath for a count of four.
  3. Exhale slowly through your mouth for a count of four.
  4. Hold your breath again for a count of four.

This completes one cycle. Continue square breathing, focusing on your breath and counting until you start to feel relaxed.

In general, it's a good idea to start with short periods of time and gradually increase as you become more comfortable with the practice. For example, you might start with just a few minutes of breathing exercises and gradually work your way up to longer sessions. Or even incorporated dedicated breathing time into meditation, which you can learn more about over here

That being said, there are no hard and fast rules when it comes to the length of time you do these breathing exercises. Some people find that just a few minutes of deep breathing can make a significant difference in their stress levels while others may find that longer sessions are more beneficial. Try out each technique to find the one that works best for you.

Ready to commit to alleviating your stress in 2023? Head over here for a deep dive into all things meditation.   

This article contains general information only and does not take into account the health, personal situation or needs of any person. In conjunction with your GP or treating health care professional, please consider whether the information is suitable for you and your personal circumstances.

This article is sponsored by HBF and proudly endorsed by Urban List. Thank you for supporting the sponsors who make Urban List possible. Click here for more information on our editorial policy.

Image credit: Urban List

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