Managing stress with mindful breathing

January 6, 2017 by Mallory Powell, University of Kentucky

Stress is an inevitable part of life, but it can affect every organ system and cause negative impacts to your health. While we can't always eliminate our problems, we can learn to manage and relate to stress so that it doesn't cause so much suffering. Research shows that the regular practice of mindfulness can help you prevent or manage a range of stress-related symptoms, including pain, headache, emotional distress, poor sleep and digestive problems.

Mindful breathing is a portable mindfulness practice that is always available to you for the skillful, non-pharmacological management of stress. Even one minute of mindful breathing can restore a sense of mastery over your life.

Although mindfulness practices may allow reduction of some medications, these instructions are not meant to replace prescribed medication without consultation with your prescriber.

Instructions for Mindful Breathing

  • Assume a comfortable position lying down, seated or reclining. Closing your eyes improves focus and reduces distractions.
  • Allow your muscles to relax, especially the neck, shoulders, jaw, face, back and anywhere you are tense.
  • Take a few deep breaths, paying attention to the physical sensation of breathing.
  • Notice the pause at the end of the out-breath. Without prolonging that pause or thinking about it, experience its calmness, quietness and peacefulness.
  • Shifting your attention to your belly, allow your belly to be soft, rising with the in-breath and falling with the out-breath. A soft belly increases the movement of the diaphragm. This stimulates the parasympathetic ('rest and digest') impulses of the vagus nerve, which runs through the diaphragm, acting as an antidote to the sympathetic ('fight or flight') impulses of the stress response.
  • Finally, simply feel the physical sensations of the breath in the nostrils, throat, chest and belly. Notice when the thinking mind wanders and, without judging yourself, simply return attention to feeling the breath.

To maximize the benefits of mindful breathing, practice 5-20 minutes once or twice daily. Practicing before meals may aid digestion. Taking just one mindful breath can re-connect you to the present moment, the only time in which you ever truly are alive. After your practice and throughout your day, be grateful for this inner resource and the gift you are giving yourself.

Mindful breathing is part of the eight week Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) course, offered January-March and March-May at Mind Body Studio in Lexington. UK Wellness offers a reduced rate for UK employees.

Explore further: Using mindfulness to lower stress

More information: www.mindbodystudy.org/

Related Stories

Using mindfulness to lower stress

June 14, 2016
Many chronic conditions, like high blood pressure, insomnia or heartburn, can be traced to a single common problem: stress.

Blow the pain away: breathing tips to help children relax

June 16, 2015
In times of stress, anxiety or frustration, you've probably been told to "relax, take a deep breath and calm down." Have you tried it? Really tried it? Many meditation practices use breathing techniques to promote a state ...

New research reveals mindful parenting reduces child stress

January 20, 2016
Mindfulness in parenting significantly reduces children's stress levels, according to a new study by the University of Melbourne's Director of Positive Psychology, Professor Lea Waters.

Workplace mindfulness could benefit individuals and organisations

May 6, 2016
Whenever you need a break at work, instead of checking your social media account, try this instead: STOP, and by that I mean Stop, Take a breath, Observe and Proceed. Stop whatever you are currently doing. Take a conscious ...

Meditation keeps emotional brain in check

September 29, 2016
Meditation can help tame your emotions even if you're not a mindful person, suggests a new study from Michigan State University.

Mindfulness helps children as young as 3 manage their emotions during school

September 27, 2016
Mindfulness, a practice that's growing in popularity, is widely praised as an antidote for the stresses of everyday life and a resource that can help many—from anxious dieters and harried employees to recovering addicts ...

Recommended for you

Prediction of psychotic onset with AI language analysis

January 24, 2018
Psychiatrists characterize schizophrenia, a mental condition with devastating effects on those who suffer it, by a set of intuitively understandable concepts including "poverty of speech" and "flight of ideas." These concepts, ...

Hospice patients define the changing nature of wisdom in their final days

January 24, 2018
Wisdom is typically considered to be the fruit of a long life, the accumulation of experiences lived and lessons learned. In recent years, scientists have created a consensus definition of wisdom as a complex trait with several ...

Short-course treatment for combat-related PTSD offers expedited path to recovery

January 23, 2018
Symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) can be debilitating and standard treatment can take months, often leaving those affected unable to work or care for their families. But, a new study demonstrated that many ...

Social and emotional skills linked to better student learning

January 23, 2018
Students with well-developed and adaptive social and emotional behaviours are most likely to excel in school, according to UNSW researchers in educational psychology.

Priming can negate stressful aspects of negative sporting environments, study finds

January 23, 2018
The scene is ubiquitous in sports: A coach yells at players, creating an environment where winning is the sole focus and mistakes are punished. New research from the University of Kansas shows that when participants find ...

Study of learning and memory problems in OCD helps young people unlock potential at school

January 22, 2018
Adolescents with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) have widespread learning and memory problems, according to research published today. The findings have already been used to assist adolescents with OCD obtain the help ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.