Breathing Lessons: How to Master Your Stress or Anxiety

Dr. Diana L Walcutt Health Guide
  • Breathing Lessons

    Do you think you know how to breathe properly? We bet you don't!
    Ninety percent of the people we ask don't breathe in a way that can help them master their stress.
    It truly is something that you have to learn and practice, practice, practice for over two weeks before you can get it right!


    This is called the 4 by 4 breathing exercise because you should practice it for 4 minutes 4
    times a day to learn to do it well. If you are able, do this with your eyes closed, imagining a pleasant place -- This is calming and designed to help you manage stress.
    There are two important things to learn about breathing:

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    1. Learn how to breathe from your diaphragm (from your tummy area) and make that
    pattern a part of your daily life.

    2. Become skilled at shifting to diaphragmatic breathing whenever you begin to feel stressed.


    1. Gently and slowly inhale a normal amount of air through your nose, filling only our lower lungs. Place your hands on your tummy so that you can feel it rising and falling with each breath. Count to 5 slowly as you do it.

    2. Exhale slowly through your lips, counting to 5 as you do so.

    3. Continue this slow, gentle breathing with a relaxed attitude, concentrating on filling only
    your lower lungs.

    4. As you breathe, slowly repeat the word "relax" or "calm" or some other word which
    means the same to you.

    If you have difficulty following the above instructions:


    1. Lie down on a rug or your bed, with your legs relaxed and straight, a book on your tummy and your hands by your side.

    2. Let yourself breathe normal, easy breaths. Notice what part of our upper body rises and
    fall with each breath. Rest a hand on that spot. If that place is your chest, you are not taking full advantage of your lungs. If the book is moving up and down, then, congratulations, you're doing it right! 



    Deep breathing is an extension of this normal process. With one hand on your chest and one on your abdomen, take a slow, deep breath, filling your lower lungs, then your upper lungs. When you exhale, let your upper lungs go first (causing your upper hand to drop), then your lower lungs (causing your lower hand to drop).

    Reminder: Too many deep breaths, instead of natural breaths in a row, will produce a sense of lightheadedness. This is not harmful; just return to natural breathing.



    Natural slow breathing and the deep slow breathing several times each day. Practice natural breathing for a period of at least 4 minutes, 4 times a day. The object is to train yourself to breathe from your diaphragm most of the time.

Published On: July 19, 2008