Easy (and free!) Relaxation

Diaphragmatic Breathing

Everyone goes through stress at some point in their lives. Unfortunately, not everyone is able to manage their stress or sometimes they forget to take a break from stress and do something relaxing. People can become overwhelmed with stress and let it take control. Sometimes it feels like there is no way out, which in turn evokes more stress, which then perpetuates the vicious stress cycle. There is one easy (and completely free!) way to help reduce stress. Any guesses?

Believe it or not, simply breathing is one of the best ways to reduce stress and bring yourself out of your racing thoughts and back to the present moment. When we become stressed, we often take shallow breaths, have an increased heart rate, and have tight muscles. By taking 5 minutes each day to practice diaphragmatic breathing you can reduce these uncomfortable bodily sensations and become relaxed.

To begin, either lie down on a comfortable surface or sit down in a comfortable chair. Make sure you are in a peaceful room with little distractions. If you are lying down, I sometimes find it helpful to place a book or magazine on my stomach to watch it rise and fall. If you are sitting in a chair, simply place your hand on your stomach to watch it rise and fall. You want to begin to take nice deep breaths. You are able to breath more deeply when you breath with your diaphragm. This allows all of that wonderful oxygen to spread throughout your body and relax your muscles. An easy way to breathe with your diaphragm is with each breath in, try to picture you stomach inflating like a balloon (easily measured by watching the book or your hand rise and fall).

The key to all of this is to keep your thoughts directed on your breath for the whole 5 minutes. It is ok if thoughts drift in (it is what we do as humans), but it is important to not pay any attention to them and to let them go when you exhale. Sometimes it is helpful to visualize yourself literally blowing those pesky thoughts away! To keep your focus on your breath, sometimes people find it helpful to count their breaths (breathe in for 4 and out for 5), to watch the book or their hand rise and fall with each breath, or to simply close their eyes.

This is much easier said than done. However, the more you practice the easier it will become and the more relaxed you will feel!

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