Tips on reducing stress through breathing

10 Jul, 2019

Don’t forget to breathe

Breathing is an automatic function of the body that is controlled by the respiratory centre of the brain. The primary role of breathing is to absorb oxygen and to expel carbon dioxide through the movement of the lungs. Throughout the day our breathing rate and pattern can change due to multiple factors such as stress and exercise. Being aware of a few simple techniques in relation to breathing can help you improve your stress levels and have you exercising safer.


Typically, when the body is stressed a person takes small, shallow breaths, using their shoulders rather than their diaphragm to move air in and out of their lungs. This style of breathing can leave us feeling quite unwell as it disrupts the balance of gases within our body. Shallow over-breathing, or hyperventilation, can prolong feelings of anxiety by making the physical symptoms of stress worse. Controlling your breathing can help to improve some of these symptoms. Next time you are feeling stressed or anxious try this breathing technique.

  1. Sit or lay down comfortably
  2. Place one hand on your stomach, just below your ribcage. Place the second hand on the centre of your chest.
  3. Breathe in deeply through your nostrils and let your first hand be pushed out by your stomach. Your chest should remain stationary.
  4. Breathe out through your lips, pursing them as if you were about to whistle. Gently guide the hand on your stomach inwards, helping to press out the breath.
  5. Slowly repeat between 3 and 10 times.


Muscles that control the movement of the lungs are the diaphragm (a sheet of muscle underneath the lungs) and the muscles between the ribs. If you are lifting heavy objects around the house or at the gym, learning correct breathing techniques can provide more support around your lumbar spine and help prevent lifting or twisting injuries. Here are a few techniques to make your lifting safer.

  1. First and foremost don’t hold your breath. It may seem silly but quite often when we are exerting large amounts of energy into a task we forget to breathe. Holding our breath for long periods of time causes an increase in blood pressure and places unnecessary strain on our muscles, respiratory system and cardiovascular symptom.
  2. Try to breathe out when you are exerting the most amount of force during a task. When we breathe out our respiratory muscles deflate and hug its surrounding structures. This can help provide extra support for our spine. For example, you have a heavy bag of potting mix you want to move. Bending down to pick it up would be easier than lifting it up off the ground. Therefore, as you bend down to pick up the bag breathe in and as you are lifting the bag off the ground breathe out.

Try these techniques next time you are feeling stressed or plan on lifting something heavy. With some practice these techniques can quickly become habits and you’ll be breathing better in no time!

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