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Managing stress and emotions through breathing

Updated: Aug 4, 2023

Woman looking calm with eyes closed.

By Ally McMullan Specialist Respiratory Physiotherapist at the Belfast Health and Social Care Trust and Pilates Instructor at All Active Pilates and Physio.

This post is a reminder for us all to just take some time to STOP and BREATHE!!

In this crazy, unsettling and unknown world that we are all currently trying to navigate our way through, it can be easy for our emotions to become heightened and difficult to manage. During this time it’s important we all take some time for self care of our own mental health and wellbeing.

One of the best ways to manage our emotions is through our breathing and through the exercises shown in the video.

When we are stressed, anxious or worried, our breathing pattern changes and tends to become more rapid, with short and shallow breaths. We tend to use more of the upper parts of our lungs and our muscles in our necks, meaning our lungs aren’t utilised fully the way they should be and we can become tense in our upper shoulders and neck. When we notice our breathing starting to become like this the best thing we can do is to stop and breathe! By doing the exercises we are able to settle our breathing, slowing it down and normalising it. Aim to take slower, deeper breaths in through the nose, filling the lungs right to the bottom (the bases), making sure our tummy rises as we do this. When we breath out make sure it is a slow, relax and controlled breath out through our mouths, allowing our tummy to slowly settle and fall. It can feel weird breathing like this as it’s not our usual, normal breathing pattern and it can take a few attempts to get this movement right so don’t panic if it takes a few attempts.

It has been shown that by focusing on our breathing and practising the breathing styles shown we can positively help our bodies. These are great relaxation techniques which help by:

  • Lowering of harmful effects of the stress hormone cortisol on your body as deep breathing helps the brain up our endorphins, our natural “feel good” chemicals

  • Stimulating the lymphatic system, helping to detoxify the body

  • Lowering heart rate

  • Lowering blood pressure

So remember to take 5 mins to yourself.

Relax, breathe and let all those stresses go.

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