Diaphragmatic breathing, or belly breathing, is a way of breathing that helps induce a more clam, relaxed state. It is something that you can do anytime, anywhere, that quickly diffuses feelings of stress and anxiety. When anxious or stressed our breathing speeds up, is shallow, and can lead to feelings of lightheadedness, which can ultimately trigger more uncomfortable feelings. This way of breathing originates in the chest. In contrast, diaphragmatic breathing moves the area of focus from the chest to deep into the abdomen, which engages the whole scope of our breath, providing more oxygen to our bodies and leading to a more relaxed state. Follow the steps below to instantly feel more relaxed!
- Lie or sit down in a comfortable position. If you are lying down, make sure your knees are bent. Put one hand on your chest and the other hand on your ribcage.
- Slowly breathe in through your nose. As you breathe in deeply and slowly, you should notice your hand on your stomach rising as your diaphragm expands. The hand on your chest shouldn’t move. If it does, you are chest breathing and not gaining the calming effects.
- Exhale through your mouth slowly, tightening your abdominal muscles, contracting your diaphragm. Again, your hand on your chest shouldn’t move.
- Repeat the above steps for three to five minutes. As you get used to breathing this way, you can remove your hands.
Practice the above steps daily. Doing so will help you feel calmer in general and is particularly effective for managing anxiety disorders. Practicing will also help you access this technique in the moment when you are feeling overwhelmed or anxious.
Reference: adapted from the clevelandclinic.org
Progressive Muscle Relaxation
Progressive muscle relaxation is a technique that is useful when trying to fall asleep at night or when you are practicing how to get into a deep, relaxed state. It’s useful for managing stress as well as anxiety. There are several resources online for how to do this, and even videos and/or apps that can help walk you through the process. The technique is simple and straightforward.
In general, progressive muscle relaxation involves tensing and relaxing ever major muscle group in your body in a progressive manner. For example, start by breathing slowing in through your nose and out through your mouth. Focus your attention on your feet. As you breathe in deeply through your nose, curl your toes and tense the muscles in your feet. Hold your breath for a few seconds and then release the muscles in your feet as you breathe out. Do this one more time before moving up your body to your calf muscles. Gradually tense and release each muscle group (calves, quads, entire leg and gluts, stomach, arms, hands, neck, face) twice. You should notice your body feeling heavier and more relaxed as you move through the muscle groups.