Deep Breathing Exercise for Stress Management

Deep Breathing Exercise for Stress Management

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One piece of advice that we often hear from the mouths of people around when they see us struggling and frantically trying to deal with severe stress is, “Calm down. Try to breathe first.” Although hearing it sometimes can make the heart boiled with emotions, it turns out this ancestral discourse has a point too, you know! Scientific research proves that taking a moment to be alone and taking deep, powerful breaths makes you more calm and relaxed. But what is the reason? Find out from the review on deep breathing exercise for stress management below.


Severe stress can cause shortness of breath

There are so many things that cause stress, such as family problems, financial problems, work, to the relationship with a partner. Stress is natural, but of course this should not be allowed to drag on, because you will be vulnerable to depression and various other serious illnesses. This is because when stressed, the heart will beat faster which causes an increase in pulse and breathing.

Therefore, good emotional control is needed so that you can deal with stress better. One way you can try to control emotions and deal with stress is to practice breathing. Research shows that breathing as deep as possible when you have a lot of thoughts or being stressed can make you more calm and relaxed.

When you breathe, your diaphragm tightens and moves downward to make room for the lungs to develop fully filled with oxygen. Then the diaphragm will relax again and move up to the chest cavity when you exhale. The average breathing rate of a healthy adult human being relaxed is 12-20 breaths per minute.

But when we are in a stressful situation, the diaphragm is evenly distributed so we start breathing quickly and superficially. Shallow breathing causes the lungs to not get the maximum portion of oxygenated air. As a result, you become short of breath. Panic reactions and discomfort from not being able to breathe normally then make your stress levels, blood pressure, and anxiety even worse.

Why is deep breathing effective for dealing with stress?

There are many studies that show the health benefits of proper deep breathing techniques. People who have asthma, high blood pressure, anxiety disorders, depression, insomnia, and chronic pain are reported to have improved their condition after learning to breathe properly.

Incoming oxygen replaces carbon dioxide that comes out when we breathe deeply bringing a myriad of benefits to the body’s system. Controlling breathing has been reported to slow down the heart rate and reduce or stabilize blood pressure. This has been linked to lower stress levels.

But it turns out the key behind the efficacy of deep breathing techniques to deal with stress both physically and mentally, is not merely a full share of oxygen intake obtained by the lungs, but also from a neural pathway in the brain that controls your respiratory system.

The joint research team from Stanfod University School of Medici and the University of California found that the human respiratory system is affected by nerve circuits in the brain called the pre-Bötzinger complex. This is located at the base of the brain stem called the puncher. They found a group of neurons in the pre-Bötzinger complex whose job was to send a signal to an area in the pons that regulates alertness, attention and stress.

It is also this nerve area that affects your emotions when you sigh, yawn, pant, sleep, laugh, and sob. The researchers concluded that this area monitors your breathing patterns, then reports their findings to other structures in the brain stem affecting emotions. This is what affects your emotions when stressed.

By controlling breathing, you become focused on slow and deep breathing so that it helps you free yourself from thoughts and sensations that trigger stress. Deep breathing can calm the nerves in the brain. This is another reason why deep breathing can be a powerful way to deal with stress.

Benefits of Breathing Exercise

The benefits of breathing exercises are most felt in people with asthma, hypertension, anxiety disorders, to some chronic diseases. Why is that? When you take a deep breath, oxygen that enters the body slows the heart’s work, so that blood flow is also stable.

However, it turns out that not only because of the role of oxygen in the body, the nerves controlling the respiratory system also play a role in making the body more relaxed when you practice breathing. A joint study conducted by the University of California and Stanford University School of Medicine revealed that there is a role for nerves in the part of the brain that functions to regulate the respiratory system, called the pre-Botzinger complex.

This nerve is located in the base of the brain stem which is often called the puncher. The function of this nerve is to send a signal to the puncher whose job is to control stress, anxiety, and attention. This part is also what influences the change in your emotions when you laugh out loud, sob, cry, and pant when you breathe.

How to practice breathing to reduce stress

Practicing breathing is not difficult, you just need a calm atmosphere so you can feel more relaxed. The following are the types of breathing exercises that you can follow in order to feel the maximum benefits of breathing exercises:

1. Stomach or Abdominal Breathing

Abdominal breathing
Deep breathing exercise – Abdominal breathing

The first step you must take before starting abdominal breathing is to lie down as comfortable as possible. Next, place one hand on the chest, and the other hand on the abdomen. You can begin to breathe as deep as possible through your nose until your lungs feel full, for about three seconds.

While breathing in, feel how your stomach will deflate, while the chest will feel stretched. Then, exhale slowly, in about four seconds. Do it repeatedly until you feel calmer.

2. Nasal Breathing

Before starting this breathing exercise, you should look for a location with a comfortable floor for you to sit. Straighten your back, but don’t lean against the wall. Then, close your right nose with your right thumb and inhale oxygen through the left nose as much as possible slowly.

After you have had enough, cover your left nose with your right ring finger. Meanwhile, lift the thumb that is clogging the right nose, and exhale. Do as much and as often as possible until you feel relaxed. Not only does it reduce stress, it also helps you focus more.

3. “Squared” breathing

Squared breathing, also known as samavriti pranayama or box breathing, is the easiest breathing technique to do. The best time to do this is before you go to sleep. Soon, it only took about 20 minutes.

The trick, try to sit as comfortable as possible on your bed. Cross your legs and straighten your back. Then, try to breathe as deep as possible for three seconds. Hold and exhale. Do it repeatedly, add one second each time you repeat the movement.

That was the type and way of doing breathing exercises to reduce stress. You will feel the benefits of this breathing exercise to the maximum if you practice it every day. Now, if you experience problems regarding mental health, you can discuss the problem with an experienced psychiatrist / psychologist.

How to do deep breathing techniques to deal with stress

In order to be able to use breathing techniques to deal with stress and anxiety, it is important to practice deep breathing every day. The easiest way to do this is to first find a quiet and comfortable place to sit or lie down using a comfortable yoga mat.

Afterwards, try to breathe normally as you normally do and place your hands on your stomach. Then inhale slowly through your nose, allowing your chest and lower abdomen to expand until you feel your hand go up. This means that your diaphragm is moving downward to make room for your lungs to be filled with oxygenated air. Let your stomach expand until it reaches its maximum capacity.

Hold your breath for a few seconds, and then exhale slowly through your mouth (or can pass through your nose if you feel this is more comfortable). You should also feel your hand come slowly down. Repeat for several minutes.

Practicing deep breathing techniques every day will get your body accustomed to breathing the right way. That way, when you are in a stressful situation, you will instinctively use this breathing technique to deal with stress.


We Stress Free does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. However, if you need someone to talk to and want to make friends, please feel free to reach me at If you would like to REDUCE your STRESS and are interested to do an ONLINE THERAPY, you can do so here.


The information contained in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as health or medical advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified health provider regarding any questions you may have about a medical condition or health objectives.


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16 thoughts on “Deep Breathing Exercise for Stress Management

  1. When I feel stressed or upset, I remind myself to breathe. I stop and breathe in deeply and then out a few times. It has a calming effect. It was interesting to read how short breaths affect the lungs and how some people can get a panic reaction from not breathing normally. I never knew how that could happen to anyone, until it happened to me for the first time a few years ago. I was alone in my classroom (I’m a teacher), and I felt very stressed. Suddenly I could not breathe, I panicked, I didn’t know why I was suddenly unable to breathe. When it was over, I realized what had happened to me … It has never happened again. Fortunately!

    Although I remind myself to breathe when I feel stressed, I have not done the breathing exercises you recommend. I will do them as well. Thank you for sharing! This is very important!

    1. Hi Christine,

      Thank you for taking time to visit my site, read my post and leave a comment. I really appreciate it! 😃 👍

      I’m glad you enjoyed reading the post and see the importance of deep breathing when we feel  stressed. Also, thank you for sharing your story. It’s good to know that you have never experience the panic attack again that caused you unable to breathe. I, myself, had experienced that kind of panic attack. Problem is, I have claustrophobia. Once when I was in Vermont in winter and we wanted to go on a snow go kart ride, when my friend put a closed full face helmet on me, I was freaking out and screamed in panic and begged him to take the helmet off. On a different occasion, one day I wanted to have a motorcycle ride with my husband, he put a helmet on me, I was freaking out as well and I told him I couldn’t breathe. It’s scary. He said, “calm down and breathe.” When I calmed myself down and took a quick deep breathe, I felt better.

      Once again thank you for your comment. Have a good day!

      Take care!


  2. I deal with stress every day with my job and good breathing exercise could never master. Hurting in your chest is not a fun feeling and I tend to stress about everything and everyone before taking care of myself. With your guidance provided here about managing stress will help me relax and do breathing exercises. 

    1. Hi Janette,

      Thank you for taking time to visit my site, read my post and leave a comment. I really appreciate it! 👍 

      I understand. Everyone has their own way to deal with stress and sometimes what works for others, won’t really work for us. 

      I see it in myself when I am so stressed out about being far away from my parents, living in a different country from my hometown, stress about my little family especially with my baby. Often times I want to scream but I know it won’t help me to get things done and it won’t be good for my own mental and physical health. I especially don’t want my anxiety, anger, etc transferred to my baby. So, I keep reminding myself to calm down, take a deep breath and think of my baby. That works for me.

      Hope the post can help you to feel more relaxed. I also hope that you find your own way that you enjoy so you can feel more relaxed and have less stress. 

      Take care!

      Ferra 💕

  3. thank you much for your article. stress is with us in our daily to daily life. so it is so important to reduce it. this post is life changer post i think. the points are very helpful and informative. if we follow the suggestions given here we will surely be benefited. i knew about the squared breathing but the other ones are new for me. i will try the other ones and give a feedback for sure.

    i will surely share this article with my family and friends so that they can know the benefits and work accordingly to reduce stress. 

    1. Hello Sumaiya,

      Thank you for taking time to visit my site, read my post and leave a comment. I really appreciate it! 😃 👍 

      I personally would like to learn more about squared breathing. It would be not so easy for some people. I can get dizzy if I don’t do it correctly. I need to practice this kind of breathing multiple times a day as I often get so stressed and frustrated at times because often times I am taking care of my baby girl myself.

      Thanks again for your thoughtful comment.

      Take care!

      Ferra 💕

  4. Thanks for the informative and thorough post about such an essential function of life.  Isn’t amazing how many people don’t realize or even seem to want to know how to breathe properly.  I like how you broke down the different kinds of breathing.  Stress is something we all experience.  Knowing how to manage it is something we all need to know.  You’ve done an excellent job of explaining its importance.  Keep up the good work.  Take care.


    1. Hi Bob,

      Thank you for taking time to visit my site, read my post and leave a comment. I really appreciate it! 😃 👍

      I know, right? Some people might take breathing for granted. It is true that everyone has their own way in dealing with stress, but doing something as simple as regulating out breathing can never harm us. Instead it can help us reducing our stress and anxiety towards everything we face in our lives.

      Thank you for your kind words and comment. I am glad you enjoyed reading this post.

      Take care!

      Ferra 💕

  5. Using breathing exercises definitely help to calm you down and relieve a stressful situation.  I find that you also have to make an effort mentally to calm yourself and clear your mind of whatever is stressing you.

    I can tell you from personal experience that trying to clear your mind can be hard sometimes, but with practice it can be done and if a person practices their breathing exercises as you’ve mentioned in this post, the combination of the two can do wonders to relieve stress.

    1. Hi Donald,

      Thank you for taking time to visit my site, read my post and leave a comment. I really appreciate it! 😃 👍
      Yes, I agree with you. It definitely requires a strong will and a good effort in clearing our mind especially when we are in a very stressful situation. Meditation is not for everybody. One person can find something else better in helping them to relieve their stress. As long as we choose a positive method, even as simple as deep breathing instead of finding outlets out there that might harm us, I think it is okay. We should do what works for us.

      Once again thank you for comment. 

      Take care!

      Ferra 💕

  6. Hi Ferra,
    It is very great content for me:) because I feel stress now and I also have a little headache. Currently, I have financial problems, family issue and also bad news from COVID-19 Outbreak. Thank you very much for sharing your positive mindset and share your smile. I should try to do you wrote here “Abdominal Breathing”. I booked mark your website. I think you should change your Black landing page of the website to “Blue,etc..”. Your website is a good concept and I will visit your website again and again.
    Best wish,

    1. Hello Vannalee,

      Thank you for taking time to visit my site, read my post and leave a comment. I really appreciate your kind words in your comment! 😃
      I hope you’re feeling better after doing the abdominal breathing exercise.
      Also, thank you for your idea about my website black landing page. I’ll update it when I can.

      Stay safe,happy and healthy!


  7. I know I am pointing out the nerd in me, but I was first introduced to deep breathing in band class. I played the baritone sax and it took a lot of breath to make it work.
    I was introduced to box breathing when I started practicing meditation and it works well for me. I think I will try to incorporate the other breathing techniques you mentioned into my meditation. Meditation is how I deal with stress and deep breathing is a big part of it.
    Thanks for providing me with breathing alternatives.

    1. Hey Greg,

      Haha, thanks so much for sharing the nerdy side of you. Yes, box breathing is a cool exercise to do and of course, we can certainly feel the benefits to reduce our stress, anxiety. Hope you’ll enjoy the other breathing techniques as well. 🙂

      Thanks for stopping by and leave your kind comment.

      Stay safe, happy and healthy!


  8. Thanks for this post on stress management and breathing exercises. I use breathing exercises to relieve stress all the time.
    I use square breathing. I’m not sure if it’s the same kind of square breathing as you described though. Mine is done in 4 steps. Here’s how it’s done.

    Step 1: Breath in through the nose to the count of 5.
    Step 2: Hold for the count of 5.
    Step 3: Blow out through the mouth, to the count of 5.
    Step 4: Hold to the count of 5.
    Each step represents one side of the square. It works great for clearing the mind and for relieving stress.
    Is this the same kind of square breathing you’re talking about?

    1. Hi Lynne,

      Yes, that’s basically what square breathing is. 🙂

      Thank you for stopping by my website, reading the post, and leaving a kind comment.

      I appreciate you for sharing your thoughts and support.

      Glad to hear that you found this post useful.

      Stay safe, happy, and healthy!


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