Breathing Exercises for Stress

Posted by Joe Lam on


        Did you know that stress related problems account for 75-90%* of all hospital visits?* If there is one thing you can do to improve your life, it’s reducing your stress. Stress is a root cause that can leads to many other health issues. It can also weaken your body’s defenses to the point your body isn’t as strong at fighting infection and diseases. So managing your stress levels is a key factor to a life well lived. Here is a list of benefits you can experience with deep breathing.

• Lowers Your Heart Rate

• Relaxes Your Muscles

• Reduces Blood Pressure

• Improves Mental Clarity

• Lowers Stress, Tension, & Anxiety

        The following are actionable tips you can easily apply to lower your stress levels and avoid hospital visits, which can save you both time and money: 

Prioritizing Your Breathing

        Have you ever asked yourself this question, "What's the most important thing in life?" You may list the common things such as family, friends, pets, your job, money, home, etc. It’s great to value these things, however, what if you responded to that same question with "oxygen". The reason you may want to rethink your priorities is because without a constant supply of oxygen flowing through your lungs, you’d instantly be dead and nothing of value will matter. If you become aware of and prioritize what’s most important in your ability to function in the immediate moment, will lead to lowering your stress and increasing all other areas of your life.


Maximize Your Lung Capacity

        Let’s say that your lung capacity is 100%, but you’re breathing at 50% on a daily basis. Do you think it would help if you deepened your breathing? There are several techniques that will help increase your lung capacity and the more you utilize them, the better you will feel. Think of it this way, the more oxygen your lungs can process, the better your mind and body will perform as it will lower your stress and anxiety levels. Your body craves oxygen, so getting as close to 100% of your lung capacity as possible is highly beneficial. But the problem is, with all the distractions in your life, it’s easy to forget about managing your breathing.

The 5-Second Deep Breathing Exercise for Stress

        One way to increase your lung capacity and lower your stress is to count while you breathe. Let’s do an exercise. Take a moment now to exhale and push out as much air from your lungs as possible, but do so by using your stomach muscles. With your lungs empty, slowly count up from 1... 2... 3... 4... 5 as you breathe in and slowly count down 1... 2... 3... 4... 5 as you breathe out. If you want to know how fast you should count, you can use the second hand of a clock as a good way to measure the speed. Unless you exercise or practice meditation, your lungs are probably are not accustomed to taking in so much oxygen and expanding beyond its usual range. And if you can’t reach to the count of 5, don’t worry because the more you expand and contract your lungs, the more oxygen you will be able to hold.

Inhale - Hold - Exhale Breathing Exercise for Stress

Another effective breathing exercise for stress is to inhale for 5 seconds, hold for 15 seconds, and exhale for 10 seconds. What this does is it oxygenates your blood stream, which is beneficial for your health. When you hold your breath you build up carbon dioxide and deplete the oxygen in your blood stream. By holding your breathe for 15 seconds and exhaling for 10 seconds, you momentarily stop the flow of oxygen and release more carbon dioxide from your body. Just as the oxygen is depleting to low levels, the next inhale will create a surge of fresh oxygen that rushes into your cells, blood stream, and brain.


Your lung capacity will increase the more you practice these breathing exercises, just like building a muscle. If you don't have a clock that ticks through each second to match your counting, simply count with your fingers. Start with your hand in a fist and then unravel each finger as you breathe five seconds in and five seconds out. Do the 10-Second Breathing Exercise 5 times in a row and you'll breathe deeply for close to a minute. This exercise will oxygenate your blood throughout your entire body, which leads to relieving stress, calming your mind, increasing relaxation, and more. And remember that the more blood that flows freely throughout your body, the better.

Build a Breathing Routine

        You’ll want to create a habit of doing this at least one minute a day for 21 days. The reason is because that is the minimum number of days for a habit to settle in and bypass the brain’s thinking so you perform the task on schedule. By then, you will have conditioned your body to behave in a set pattern to automatically do it without thinking. It’s important to develop a habit for this to have lasting impact on your life. If you make it a priority to do this the same time each day, then it can become a lifelong habit. In the same way as brushing your teeth is habit, think of this as brushing your lungs. This habit can best be formed if you connect it with a regular daily task to trigger the exercise. 

        Here are a few examples of how you can tie in your 10-Second Deep Breathing Exercise with a daily activity:

• Waking Up & Going to Bed

• During Lunch or Work Breaks

• Brushing Your Teeth

• Taking a Shower

• Doing Makeup

• Shaving

• Driving

• Cooking

• Waiting in Line


        So remember, 75-90% of all hospital visits are stress related and that you can lower your stress by making deep breathing a priority in your life. You'll also save time & money on hospital visits by expanding your lung capacity to it's full 100% capacity. Continue to practice the 10-Second Deep Breathing Exercise by counting 1... 2... 3... 4... 5 as you breathe in and counting 1... 2... 3... 4... 5 again as you breath out. And if you can't inhale or exhale to the count of five, keep practicing and your lung capacity will begin to expand. And lastly, developing these breathing exercises for stress into a regular habit is the key for lifelong health. It will require discipline so the more you practice, the less stress you'll have, which could lead to fewer hospital visits as well as time & money saved.


*Job Stress:
America’s Leading Adult Health Problem, by Paul J. Rosch, M.D., F.A.C.P., in USA Magazine, May 1991.
American Academy of Family Physicians Survey, 1988,U.S. News & World Report, December 11, 1995.
also, Research by Perkins (1994) cited in the Harvard Business Review showed that 60% to 90% of doctor visits were stress-related.

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