Health Advocate Blog

Take a deep breath and relax

Regular practice of breathing and relaxation exercises can help you better handle stress and control your emotions. They are great techniques to utilize when you are in a stressful or anxiety-provoking situation. These simple yet profound tools establish a mind-body connection that allows you to reach a meditative-like state. Here are some exercises to try.

A super simple breathing exercise

As you practice this exercise, you may notice your breathing slows down and, in turn, your heart rate slows down. This can help any anxious, stressful feelings fade away and help you think more clearly!

  1. Take a few moments to sit quietly and observe your breathing.
  2. Focus each time you inhale and exhale.
  3. Notice the sensations you feel and the manner in which you breathe.

Belly breathing

This exercise allows oxygen to be inhaled all the way through your chest down into your belly, expanding your lungs and down into your diaphragm. Belly breathing increases the amount of oxygen you’re inhaling, which in turn helps keep you relaxed, focused and provides a greater sense of calm. Learn how to do it here.

Pursed lip breathing

If stress makes you feel short of breath this exercise can help get more oxygen into your lungs and calm your breathing.

  1. Sit down in a comfortable place and relax your neck and shoulders
  2. With your mouth closed, breathe in slowly through your nose to the count of two
  3. Purse your lips and slowly breathe out all the oxygen from your lungs to the count of five (your lips should be pursed for the entire exhale as if you were very slowly blowing out a candle)
  4. Repeat until you feel your breathing has calmed

Morning relaxation exercise

Rather than rushing to get out of bed in the morning, spend some quiet time taking in your surroundings. It can help you ease into your morning and set a positive tone for the day.

  1. Listen to the sounds inside and outside of your bedroom
  2. Notice the sensation of your sheets and blanket
  3. Acknowledge the feeling of your head and body resting on your pillow(s) and mattress
  4. If thoughts of your day begin to interrupt your quiet time, simply acknowledge them and refocus on an aspect of your bedroom

Progressive relaxation

Stress and anxiety can cause your muscles to tense. This exercise helps to relieve that tension and calm you down through simultaneously inhaling and tensing a muscle group, then exhaling and releasing that tension. For best results, follow the steps below and use the specific progression as described in the chart.

  1. Lay down or sit in a reclined position
  2. Inhale and tense a muscle group to the count of three
  3. Release the tension while slowly exhaling to the count of four
  4. Repeat with the next muscle group until you tense and release muscle groups from head to toe
Muscle groupHow to tense
ForeheadWrinkle your forehead and furrow your brows
Eyes and cheeksClose your eyes tightly, scrunch up your nose and cheeks as if you’re grimacing
Back of your neckTilt your head back until you feel slight tension
Front of neckTouch your chin to your chest
ShouldersBring your shoulders up to your ears and tighten
Upper arms and bicepsClench your hands into fists, bend your elbows and tighten your biceps
ForearmsExtend arms straight out, bend hands back at your wrist with palms out and fingers up
BackArch your back and tighten
AbdomenTighten your stomach muscles as if you were trying to move your belly button toward your spine
Hips and buttocksTighten your glutes
ThighsClench your thighs as if you were going to squat
LegsExtend your legs and point your toes toward your body
FeetScrunch your toes and arch your feet