Tools to Help with Stress: Breathwork

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Breathwork (Pranayama) is a general term for mindfully changing your breathing. When you breathe in (inhale) using your belly and breathe out (exhale) slowly, it can help you to relax. Try these simple breathing techniques the next time you are feeling overwhelmed, anxious or stressed. Stay focused and practice the breaths 3-5 times each. Increase the number of breaths by one breath every couple of days. You can stop at any time. If you feel dizzy or nauseous, stop and take a break.

Balloon breath

Make a circle with your hands, make the circle bigger when you inhale, and then make the circle smaller when you exhale.

  • Pretend to blow up a balloon with slow, controlled breaths.
    • Breathe in through your nose to fill your lungs and belly. Focus on filling your belly. Your shoulders should only move a little bit.
    • Breathe out slowly through your mouth to blow up the imaginary balloon. You could use a real balloon to do this exercise.

Belly breathing

Breathe slowly in through your nose, and then out through your mouth.

  • Breathe in through your nose. Allow the breath to go down into your belly and flow out through your mouth.
  • Notice the way your belly rises and falls when you breathe in and breathe out.
    • If you lie down you could place a small toy on your belly to see it rise and fall.
  • Let your thoughts come and go. Notice your breath as it enters your nose, travels to your belly, filling it with a sense of calm and peace.
  • Notice your breath bring an even rhythm as you breathe in and breathe out. Focus on your breath, focus on its pathway as it enters your body and fills you with peace.
    • If this makes you more anxious, take a break and try again later.

Bee breath

Making a buzzing sound while you exhale can help you to relax.

  • Sit tall and straight.
  • Relax your shoulders and face.
  • Take a long, slow deep breath in through your nose and then breathe out slowly while you make the buzzing sound of a bee. Try to make your buzz long and slow.
  • Notice the vibration in your lips, and in your mind. How does it feel?
  • Now, try it with your eyes and ears closed so you can hear the sound from the inside.
  • Take a moment, close your eyes and then cover your ears. You do not have to close your eyes.
  • Take a long, slow breath in and then breathe out making a long, slow buzz or hum.

For older children and adults

Alternate nostril breathing

Sit straight and tall in a comfortable position. Try to release any tension in your face by thinking about softening it.

  • Close your eyes or gaze softly down the tip of your nose. Think about releasing tension from your jaw.
  • Let your left hand rest on your lap.

Close off your right nostril with your thumb and breathe in through your left nostril.

  • Use your index finger and close off the left nostril. Breathe out through the right nostril.
  • Breathe in through your right nostril while keeping your left nostril closed.
  • Switch fingers, close off the right nostril with your thumb and breathe out through the left.
  • Start by trying to do three complete cycles of breaths in and out. You may add cycles if it feels good. Stop whenever you like.

If you or your child continue to experience anxiety or stress, it is important that you call and speak with your healthcare provider. If you feel you or your child are in immediate danger, please call 911 or go to your nearest emergency room.

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November 2022