The COVID-19 pandemic has caused many to live in a particularly anxiety-inducing time.
Though a therapist or doctor will be best able to give the right coping mechanisms for you, fortunately, feelings of excessive fear or worry can be mitigated too by a few basic breathing exercises. These simple exercises work by relaxing your body and mind as you consciously slow your inhales and exhales.
“Deep abdominal breathing encourages full oxygen exchange- that is, the beneficial trade of incoming oxygen for outgoing carbon dioxide. Unsurprisingly, this kind of breathing slows the heartbeat and it can lower or stabilize blood pressure” reports Harvard Health Publishing. Moreover, Meditation expert Josephine Atluri tells us that the act of seeing your breath moving in and out of your body allows you to step away from stressors and focus on a more mindful state.
The best part is that these simple exercises can be done anywhere and anytime. So next time you are feeling anxious, remind yourself to practice a bit of deep breathing to help you recenter:
- Active Breathing
According to Talkspace therapist Cynthia Catchings said that active breathing integrates physical activity with breathing to reduce anxiety. In this exercise, you inhale through your nose to a count of three then exhale through your mouth to a count of three while you climb the stairs. The count for your breathing cadence should then correspond to how slow or how quick you climb the stairs. Catchings says “ Incorporating exercise and breathing allows us to get more oxygen and create endorphins that make us feel happy, while mitigating feelings of anxiety”
- Belly Breathing
Belly breathing is the type of breathing that slows the heartbeat and can lower or stabilize blood pressure. Think of it as if filling your whole body with oxygen. As you inhale, instead of breathing only into your chest, send the breath into your belly and feel your stomach expand. Fill your belly and chest with as much air as you can.
As you exhale, release the air from your chest and belly using the hand on your belly to push all the air out. Then repeat the process, each time monitoring how long you can make each breath.
- Laughter Breathing
This type of breathing is a combination of pranayama and laughter yoga. The mental benefits of laughter are incredibly helpful in making us feel much more relaxed. To begin, think of “Ha, Ha” similar when you laugh.
This exercise uses exhalation (Ha) much longer than inhalation, ridding the lungs of the remaining air, which is replaced by the fresh air containing a much higher level of oxygen. The trick is to not stop if you start to laugh while doing this technique, even if it may feel unnatural at the beginning.
- Ocean Breathing
Imagine how the ocean waves flow by the shore, its continuous flowing in and out. Begin by inhaling slowly, then without taking a pause, flow your inhale immediately through your exhale. Repeat this process by flowing your exhales and inhales without a pause and imagining the serene atmosphere of a wide-open ocean.
- Counted Breathing
Paced or Counted Breathing is done exactly the same way it sounds. Its beauty lies in its simplicity. Start with inhaling for four seconds, then holding your breath for four seconds, then finally, exhaling for four seconds. Counted breathing can also be done in four-seven-eight, wherein you inhale through your nose, doing a mental count of four, then hold your breath for count of seven then, finally exhale thoroughly through your mouth for a count of eight then repeat this as needed.