De-Stress Your Life Challenge Strategy #1: Deep Breathing

The first strategy for our De-Stress Your Life Challenge is belly breathing. Breathing from your belly is an effective way to keep you out of the flight or fight response and calm the physical symptoms of stress down.

If you haven’t already, check out the video below where I walk you through how to breath from your belly.

Danielle McCarthy:  

If you haven’t heard about the fight-or-flight response and what’s happening in your brain and body when you become stressed, make sure you head over to our previous blog post before reading on.

One of the most effective tools for calming the fight-or-flight response down is something that is underrated. That’s right, I’m talking about our breathing. Our breathing is so incredibly important for calming the stress response system down.

When we become stressed we typically start taking short shallow breaths from our chest. This actually triggers all of those stress symptoms and can be part of what gets you into the fight-or-flight state or a factor that keeps you in it.

We actually want to be breathing from our belly, or our abdomen. This is the way we are designed to breathe. If you see a newborn baby and you watch them breathe, you will notice their little belly goes up and down, up and down, up and down. That’s the way we were designed to breathe, however, over time we’ve developed nasty habits. So we want to correct our breathing. For chronic chest breathers it’ll be a path towards retraining your body how to breathe properly.

So How Do We Breathe From Our Belly?

➡️ Put one hand on your belly and one hand on your chest.

➡️ Start breathing in and out through your nose, just normally to begin with.  

➡️ See if you can become aware of where you notice your breath most in your body. Do you notice it mostly in your belly or up in your chest? Is it 50/50? Just notice what’s going on.

➡️ Now, as you continue breathing normally, I want you to imagine that there’s a balloon in your belly. And as you breathe in I want you to try to blow that balloon up. So as you inhale, the balloon goes up and the hand on your belly goes out.

➡️ And as you exhale, the balloon goes down.

➡️ Focus on that for a moment and with every breath you take see if you can get it down past your chest and into your belly. Blow that balloon up, before letting it deflate again.

➡️ Finally, you want your exhale to be really long. You want to make sure you really empty all that air out before filling it back up again.

Our breathing is one of the first things to go when we become stressed. In this sense, it can be a really important indicator that you are becoming stressed.

When you notice your breath moving up into your chest: Stop, slow things down, and move it back down into your belly.

Homework Task

This exercise is one of your homework tasks for Week 1 of the De-stress Your Life Challenge. Each day over the next week, I want you to practice for a couple minutes a day at getting that breath further and further down into your belly. With enough practice you will start breathing from your belly 100% of the time, not just when you’re stressed.