Just Breathe – Breathing Exercises to Feel More Resilient and Relaxed When Feeling Overwhelmed

Deep Belly Breathing

Practicing deep belly breathing is one of the most effective ways to help calm down the mind and body.  To get an idea about what a deep belly breath looks like, I want you to place one hand under your belly button and the other hand on your chest.

Now imagine that your belly area is a balloon.  On each inhale through the nose, you feel the balloon fill up.  On each exhale, you breathe out though your mouth and feel the balloon become smaller.  The movement with each breath in and outwill be greater in the belly area then in the chest.

The goal is to have more movement happening in the belly area to encourage greater airflow into the lungs.  More air into the lungs gets more oxygen into the blood and muscles.  When this happens, the breath helps the muscles become more relaxed too.

Deep Belly Breath Work with Affirmations/Visualizations

Now that you have a better idea of what deep belly breathing looks like, you can now add in another layer to this exercise.  You can think about including positive affirmations and/or visualizations to enhance the experience.

So maybe when taking a breath inward, you say to yourself that you are breathing in healing energy. On the exhale, you breathe out your worries and concerns.

Get Specific

Aside from using your own affirmations, you can also add in visual images or colors to this exercise.  You might visualize seeing a bright healing color pouring into your body from the sky above, as it gently trickles down from the top of your head.  As that light moves down your body, you feel a soothing and comforting sensation.

Maybe you visualize the negative thoughts and feelings of self-doubt leave your body on each exhalation out.  Whatever thoughts or feelings come up, you can easily incorporate them into this exercise to deepen the overall experience.

Guided Meditation With Your Breathe

When first starting out my meditation practice, I found it easiest to listen to a guided imagery exercise.  I made a point to follow along with what was being said in the audio track.  Over time though, I was able to get more creative and even come up with my own guided meditation process that really made the most sense for me.

On my website homepage, visitors can sign up for a free guided relaxation audio exercise called “The Beach.”  I invite you to consider this free relaxation audio track to see if guided meditation works for you.  Aside from this free option, there are also a number of free or low cost smartphone apps focused on guided meditation.

So if this is a method you find works for you, then try to see what the experience is like when adding in deep belly breathing.  This along with visualizations can really enhance the experience.

4-7-8 Breathing Exercise

The numbers 4, 7 and 8 represent the guidelines in how to perform this specific breathing exercise.  To begin, you first inhale for 4 counts and then hold your breath for 7 counts.  Finally on the exhale, you breathe out for 8 counts.

This is a more advanced breathing exercise which requires regular practice.  Initially, it may not be easy to breathe in and out with these count guidelines.  You may need to start with shorter inhales and exhales and work your way up.

Even though this breathing exercise is not for everyone, it might be the most appealing to those who already have a regular relaxation breathing practice.  This exercise might be the right kind of experience they are seeking to keep their breathing practice interesting and challenging.

Possible Benefits With Breathing Exercises

So why practice deep breathing or any of these other breathing exercises?
What are the possible benefits to making relaxation breathing a part of one’s daily routine?

Here are some of the benefits with breath work

  • Stress Reduction
  • Reduced Anxiety
  • More Relaxed Muscles
  • Reduced Physical Pain Symptoms
  • Strengthens Abdominal Muscles
  • Improved Digestion
  • Promotes A More Relaxed Mental State
  • Improved Sleep
  • Lowered Blood Pressure
  • Improved Blood Circulation
  • Increase in Energy
  • Greater Self-Awareness

However just like anything else, please consult your doctor to make sure these exercises are safe for you.  None of the information shared here is a substitute for medical care or prescription medication.  Those with medical or mental health conditions are encouraged to consult with their health/mental health practitioner to explore any possible side effects that could compromise their emotional and/or physical well-being.

Daniela Paolone

Daniela Paolone is a Marriage and Family Therapist and founder of Westlake Village Counseling serving residents of California and Wyoming. She helps those working through pain, illness, depression and anxiety using a secure online counseling platform ensuring client confidentiality. Using education, helpful resources, unconditional support and understanding, she strives to help people transform their pain into power so they can live their best lives!

Click Here to Leave a Comment Below 2 comments
Joanne Royer, PhD of Change Agent & Associates, A Coaching Collective - September 13, 2017

Great practical take-away techniques. Always great to be reminded about we can be in better control of feeling so out of control when anxiety rushes in. Thanks Daniella!

Chris - September 13, 2017

Thank you for providing so many different ways to use breath and the benefits.


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