Breathing exercises help with stress and anxiety. They have the same calming effect as a hug. We show you four simple exercises that will relax your body and mind.
Stressful situations can trigger shortness of breath or hyperventilation – our breathing becomes irregular and we feel like we aren’t getting enough oxygen.
Conscious breathing can help restore your inner peace. You can easily integrate these four simple exercises into your daily routine. Find out which breathing technique is best for you. Follow step-by-step instructions. Pay attention to your breathing and notice how the tension is released after just a short period and how your body and mind relax.
Physical closeness, such as hugging and cuddling, has a healing effect. When hugged, the body releases neurotransmitters, which make us feel relaxed and happy. The “cuddle hormone”, oxytocin, has a calming effect. It helps reduce stress and strengthens bonds between people.
The conscious use of abdominal breathing is ideal if you need a short period of relaxation or want to compose yourself. Lie down on your back or sit up straight. Place your hands on your stomach with your fingertips slightly touching each other. Breathe in and out as evenly as possible and without straining yourself. First let the air flow into your stomach and then into your chest. After breathing in, your stomach will bulge outwards slightly and your fingers will move apart from each other. Breathe out by simply allowing first your chest and then your stomach to relax. You should be able to feel your stomach moving inwards while you breathe out. When you have fully exhaled, only breathe in again when you feel it is necessary. This can certainly last a few seconds. Make sure that you breathe in through your nose.
This breathing exercise increases the amount of air inhaled, increasing your body’s oxygen supply and resulting in relaxation. You might feel slightly dizzy at the beginning. This could be connected to the greater supply of oxygen and should return to normal quickly.
Would you like an audio guide? Helsana Coach tells you why mindful breathing relaxes body and soul.
Progressive muscle relaxation helps you to relax. Breathe in slowly and as you do so tense as many muscles as possible. Briefly hold your breath and relax the muscles again as you exhale. Repeat this process about five times. Afterwards, remain sat or lying down for a short while in order to consciously appreciate the feeling of relaxation.
Anxiety triggers stress in people and thus leads to shallow breathing. The right breathing technique can help to counter anxiety. To manage your stress, lie on the floor. Bend your legs and place your feet flat on the ground. Position your arms down loosely next to your body. Tilt your pelvis towards your belly button, press your spine against the ground and try to exhale completely. Remain in this position for a few seconds and hold your breath. Tilt your pelvis backwards so that your lower back rises. Breathe in as you do so. Repeat this process for a few minutes. In order to relax even more, remain lying down for a moment upon finishing.
During this breathing exercise, take your right hand and spread your thumb, index finger and middle finger. With your index and middle fingers, now close your left nostril so that you can breathe in through your right nostril. After this breath, close your right nostril with your thumb and exhale through your left nostril. For your second breath, breathe in through your open left nostril, then close both nostrils and let the air flow out again through your right nostril. Alternate nostril breathing has a relaxing effect and also helps to balance both halves of the brain. This boosts your concentration.
Sarina Schär, physiotherapist FH BSc, works for Helsana’s health consultation service and advises customers on movement and functional disorders. She provided the editorial team with advice and input for this article.