April 21, 2022

How to reduce stress and anxiety with deep breathing

By Julie Marchand and Valérie S. Legendre, psychologist and Director of Mental Health Solutions at Sun Life

Learning to control something as simple as breathing can help you reduce anxiety and regain control of your well-being. Here’s how.  

Do you feel times are especially hard these days? It can be upsetting to feel you have little control over your financial health or loved ones’ well-being. You may be feeling stressed, anxious, nervous, worn out, tired or impatient.

Certain physical symptoms may be a sign that you’re literally short of breath, such as:

  • trouble breathing,
  • a lump in your throat or 
  • a pain in your chest.

As simple as it may seem, you may feel better after taking a few deep breaths. 

Deep breathing can help you cope with negative emotions and the physical symptoms they create. But before you get started, it’s important to understand what it means to breathe properly and how it can help you reduce stress. Here’s how.  

Do you need help with your mental health?

If you’re struggling, reach out to a counsellor or therapist for support.

Find a mental health professional on Lumino Health.

What is deep breathing?

It’s a type of breathing that is slow, deep and abdominal. When you breathe using your abdomen, you also engage your diaphragm.

Deep breathing can be done anywhere, including:

  • at home,
  • in the car,
  • at your desk,
  • in bed and
  • during activities like yoga, meditation or relaxation.

You can build deep breathing into your daily routine whenever you have a spare moment.

What are the benefits of deep breathing?

The rate and depth of your breathing directly affects your mind and body. Breathing is your body’s source of oxygen. Without breath, there’s no energy and no life.

Practising deep, slow breathing for as little as three minutes can have many benefits. 

Deep breathing can help:

  1. increase the oxygen in your blood,
  2. increase your energy level,
  3. reduce stress and anxiety,
  4. improve posture,
  5. you deal with intense emotions such as anger, sadness and distress,
  6. strengthen your immune system,
  7. improve concentration ,
  8. improve sleep, and
  9. improve digestion.

How do you practice deep breathing?

Ready to begin your deep breathing exercises? Here’s a quick step-by-step guide to get you started.

  1. Sit or stand in a comfortable position.
  2. Straighten your back.
  3. Roll your shoulders back and open your chest.
  4. Place your right hand on your abdomen (at your navel) and your left hand on your chest.
  5. Take a deep breath in (count to 5).
  6. Hold it (count to 2).
  7. Breathe out slowly (count to 5).
  8. Repeat 5 times (or more).

Take a moment to observe how you feel after a few minutes of deep breathing. Experts at Harvard Medical School recommend aiming for 10 minutes of breath focus when you first start. From there on, you can gradually add more time until your deep-breathing sessions are about 15 to 20 minutes long.

Do you need help with your mental or financial health? 

Your mental and financial health are connected. So it can help to talk to professionals:

  • Find a mental health professional for virtual and in-person appointments on Lumino Health.
  • A Sun Life advisor can help answer questions and address any financial concerns you may have. Find an advisor today. 

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This article is meant to provide general information only. It’s not professional medical advice, or a substitute for that advice. 

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