Basic Breathing (Meredith, 2005)

  • Shallow, quick breathing is one of the hallmarks of stress. This type of breathing can lead to feeling dizziness, tingling sensations, and confusion, all of which further adds to stress.
  • Abdominal breathing is the opposite of this stressed breathing pattern. Abdominal breathing stimulates the part of our nervous system that slows down the heart and the body, leading to a feeling of calmness and peace.
  • Rest one hand on your abdomen and one on your chest and notice how you are breathing. If most of the movement is in your chest, you can definitely benefit from practicing the habit of abdominal breathing. If, however, your abdomen was gently rising and falling like a balloon being gently inflated and deflated, congratulations, you’re already breathing in a calming and health promoting way.

Instructions for Abdominal Breathing:

  1. Find a comfortable and quiet location. Sit straight up or lie down so that you can have full expansion of your lungs.
  2. Inhale slowly and deeply, letting your abdomen move outward in a relaxed and automatic way as the air fills your lungs.
  1. After you’ve taken a full breath, exhale slowly and fully. Focus attention on your breath as it flows from your body, noticing the feel of the air as it moves past the nostrils.
  2. Breathe deeply and fully in with normal rate and depth of breathing, using smooth inhalations and exhalations. Count with each exhalation, like this: full deep inhalation…full smooth exhalation, count “one.” Repeat until you reach ten, and then start again at one.
  3. Expand the diaphragm on the breath in and keep chest still.
  1. Practice either this breathing exercise up to twice daily, 10 minutes each time.

Breathing Exercises For Coping with Stress

4 X 4 Technique

  1. Sit up straight with back flushed to support of chair and feet flat on floor.
  1. Rest arms on lap, thighs, or arms of chair.
  1. Take in a deep breath through the nose to a count of four (1…2…3…4)
  1. Hold breath to a count of four (1…2…3…4).
  1. Release breath through the mouth to a count of four (1…2…3…4).
  1. Rest for a count of four (1…2…3…4).
  1. Repeat cycle four times.

Relaxing Sigh

  1. Sit up straight.
  1. Sigh deeply, letting out a sound of deep relief as the air rushes out.
  1. Don’t think about inhaling-just let the air come in naturally.
  1. Take 8-12 of these relaxing sighs and let yourself experience the feeling of relaxation. Repeat as needed.

Purifying Breath

  1. Begin by sitting or standing up straight in a good posture
  1. Inhale a complete natural breath
  1. Hold this breath for a few seconds
  1. Pretend you are blowing through a straw and exhale a little of the air with considerable force through the

small opening between your lips. Stop exhaling for a moment then blow out a bit more air. Continue this

procedure until all the air is exhaled in small, forceful puffs.

Calming Breath

  1. Breathing from your abdomen, inhale through your nose slowly to a count of 5 (count slowly 1 … 2…

3… 4… 5… as you inhale)

  1. Pause and hold your breath to a count of five
  1. Exhale slowly through your nose or mouth, to a count of 5 (count slowly 1… 2… 3… 4… 5… as you

exhale). Each time you exhale you may wish to silently say the words… “relax,” “calm, “ or “peace,” or

any other word or phrase relaxing to you.

  1. Repeat this exercise for at least 3-5 minutes. This should involve at least 10 cycles of in-5, hold-5, and out-5.

As with any breathing exercise, if you begin to feel lightheaded, stop for 30 seconds and then start again.

Bourne, E.J. (1995). The anxiety & phobia workbook. Oakland: New Harbinger.

Davis, M., Eshelman, E.R., & McKay, M. (1995). The relaxation & stress reduction workbook. Oakland: New Harbinger.

Helpful Websites, Phone Numbers, and Other Resources

Abuse Hotline                                        1-800-252-5400

Alcoholics Anonymous                             (210) 822-6235

ALANON                                                 (210) 829-1392

Battered Women’s Shelter                        (210) 733-8810

Child Abuse Hotline                                 1-800-422-4453

Elder Abuse Hotline                                 1-800-252-5400

Domestic Violence                                   1-800-799-7233 / 1-800-432-9777

Rape Crisis Center                                   (210) 349-7273

United Way Help Line                               (210) 227-4357

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline            1-800-273-TALK

Division of Violence Prevention, NCIP, CDC, HHS
Phone: (770) 488-4362
Internet Address:

Office on Violence Against Women, OJP, DOJ
Phone: (800) 799-7233
Internet Address:

National Center for Victims of Crime
Phone: (800) 394-2255
Internet Address:

National Crime Prevention Council
Phone: (202) 466-6272
Internet Address:

National Domestic Violence Hotline
Phone: (800) 799-SAFE
Internet Address:

National Sexual Violence Resource Center
Phone: (877) 739-3895
Internet Address:

Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network
Phone: (202) 544-1034
Internet Address:

Obesity Action Coalition
Internet Address:

American Society for Metabolic & Bariatric Surgery
Internet Address:

American Obesity Society
Internet Address:

Eating Disorder Hope
Internet Address:

The American Pain Foundation
Internet Address:

National Fibromyalgia Association
Internet Address: