Skip to main content
Stress management breathing techniques

3 Breathing Exercises for Stress Management

These tried-and-true breathing exercises can help you take on the day.

You’ve likely experienced the physical effects of stress at some point in your life. Rapid heartbeat, accelerated breathing … you know the feeling. The body and mind are connected, after all. So when you feel anxious, overwhelmed and on edge, your brain triggers a set of biological responses that include these jittery sensations.

But when you’re not stressed — say, maybe taking a nice, afternoon nap or leisurely floating on an inner tube in crystal-clear Caribbean waters — the opposite process occurs. Your breath becomes slower and more measured. You’re relaxed. Not stressed.

Since booking a flight to a tropical paradise departing tomorrow isn’t an option for most of us, how can you keep stress from taking over? Deep breathing could be helpful, as inhaling and exhaling sends a message to your brain to calm down and relax.

Here are three tried-and-true breathing strategies that can help you manage stress, take on your day and perhaps avoid a headache at the same time.

1. Belly Breathing:

This method starts with finding a comfortable spot to sit. Next, place one hand on your tummy — right beneath your ribs — and the other on your chest. Breathe in through your nose, pushing your belly out and keeping your chest still. Then pucker your lips and slowly exhale as your belly pulls inward. Repeat the cycle three to 10 times.

2. The 4-7-8 Approach:

You can choose to sit up or lie down. Place one hand on your belly and the other on your chest. Breathe in from your belly for four counts, inhaling slowly. Then hold your breath for seven counts. Exhale to the count of eight, pushing all the air out of your belly. Repeat three to seven times.

3. The Roll:

Start off by lying on your back with knees bent. Place your left hand on your belly and your right on your chest. Fill up your lower lungs (making sure that your belly protrudes out and your chest holds still). Inhale through your nose; exhale through your mouth; repeat the process eight to 10 times. Then, for the second part of the exercise, inhale first into your lower lungs and then continue into your upper chest. Watch your right hand rise as air enters. Exhale, making a subdued “whoosh” noise; watch your left hand fall followed by your right. Repeat this relaxing exercise, in which you are mimicking the motion of rolling waves, for three to five minutes.

Become a headache expert.
Sign up for the 5-week Headache Boot Camp