If you’re like most people, you’ve gotten to a point at some time in the last month/week/day/hour where you feel like there is simply too much going on in the world and that life has begun to feel overwhelming. There’s no doubt that there is a lot happening right now that is out of our control; however, there are some things that we can do to control the effect all the craziness has on our health.

(This post comes to us from our friends at Natural Solutions for a Healthy You.)

Just Breathe…

One of the most powerful tools we have in our stress management toolbox is the ability to breathe. We do it all day, every day, and most of the time, we are completely unaware that we are doing it. This is where a slight change in perception and a little attention to detail can make all the difference.

When we change our focus from what is going on out there (as in, outside our body – the news, world events, etc.) and bring our attention to our breath, we automatically ratchet back the intensity of our thoughts. Try it – right now – drop whatever you are doing, close your eyes for a moment and focus only on your breathing. Keep your focus there for about 10 breaths, then open your eyes.

Feel better, don’t you?!

This simple exercise can be used any time throughout the day to help calm the mind down, refocus your energy and let go of the cumulative negative effects that stress can have over time. Try and take a ‘stress-break’ like this – just 20-60 seconds – many times throughout your day to start using the power of your breath to help you relax.

Supercharge Your Breathing

If you want to get even more out of your breath-work stress breaks, focus on breathing very deeply when you inhale and push all the air out of your lungs when you exhale. This little added focus and effort will help your body better deliver oxygen to the tissues, relax the muscles and release any stored tension you may be storing in your body.

Some people even like to visualize releasing any stress when they breathe out, while breathing in calm, comforting energy whenever they breathe in. Use whatever works best for you, but always keep your focus on your breathing and breathe as deeply as is comfortable. Practice this as many times throughout the day as possible and before you know it, you’ll be feeling much less stressed, more calm and more grounded as you navigate your life.

If your brain needs a little more structure, here’s a simple exercise you can do:

1 to 8 Count Breathing

  • Close your eyes.
  • Inhale slowly and deeply through your nostrils. As you do so, imagine the number 1 clearly in your mind. See it printed large and bold.
  • Exhale slowly and completely through your nostrils. As you do this, see the number 2 boldly in your mind.
  • Inhale again and see the number 3.
  • Continue this exercise to the count of 8. Inhale and exhale very slowly.

Repeat this sequence as often as needed during the day.

And if you need a sure-fire way to let go of tension in your body, give this exercise a try:

Tense, Shake, Breathe and Relax

  • Deliberately tense your whole body as tightly as you can for three to five seconds, while holding your breath.
  • Then gently shake your body.
  • Next, stand tall, as if your head were suspended in space from a string, and breathe slowly, deeply, and evenly from your lower belly. Let the breath bring a sense of deep relaxation.

Breath-work is an easy, effective and free way that you can substantially reduce the impact that stress can have on your health. And the best part is, it’s always available and ready for you to use, so focus on your breathing and feel the effects of stress begin to melt away!