woman outdoors taking a deep breath

Your body needs oxygen to stay healthy.

When stress enters your day, your heart rate speeds up, your muscles tighten, and blood flow increases, all of which increases the demand for oxygen. While this may be good during times when you need to escape danger, chronic stress can cause serious, adverse health effects, including fatigue, weaken the immune system, and be hard on the heart. That is why it is vitally important to keep your stress levels down.

Deep breathing exercises can pull you out of a stressful moment, clear your head, and help calm your body down.

Breathing exercises are common ways to control stress. They are taught in yoga classes, Buddhist meditation, and even as a way to deal with chronic pain.

Here is one type of common breathing exercise that can help you control stress:

  1. Find a comfortable place to sit.
  2. Sit up straight with your feet flat on the floor.
  3. Close your eyes, and let your arms hang loosely at your sides.
  4. Exhale as much as you can while relaxing your stomach muscles.
  5. Keep inhaling until your chest and belly feel full.
  6. Hold the breath for a moment.
  7. Exhale slowly and feel the air leave your body.
  8. Pull your stomach in to coax all the air out.
  9. Exhale as much as possible and repeat for five minutes.

Variations of this simple breathing technique include exhaling loudly or fluttering the lips while you exhale. This gives you an audible confirmation of the stress leaving your body. Counting your breaths aloud as you exhale can also calm nerves and block out background noise.

This exercise works best in a quiet environment but one isn't always available. This is still a quick way to help combat stress at your desk, on the train, or wherever you can sit for five minutes. However, if you don't feel you're getting enough oxygen or you feel lightheaded, stop the exercise and continue breathing normally.