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Mindful breathing: Your on-the-go stress reliever

A woman stretches outdoors.
Blog

/ by UK HealthCare

Feeling stressed out is an inevitable part of everyone’s life. But when you’re stressed too much or too often, it can take a toll on your physical and mental well-being.

While you can’t always eliminate your stress, you can learn to manage it so that it doesn’t become overwhelming. One way you can do that is by incorporating mindfulness into your daily life.

Research shows that the regular practice of mindfulness can help you prevent or manage a range of stress-related symptoms, including pain, headache, emotional distress, poor sleep and digestive problems.

Mindful breathing is an easy, on-the-go mindfulness practice that is always available to you for the management of stress. Even one minute of mindful breathing can restore a sense of mastery over your life.

Although mindfulness practices may allow reduction of some medications, these instructions are not meant to replace prescribed medication without consultation with your prescriber.

Instructions for mindful breathing

1. Assume a comfortable position lying down, seated or reclining. Closing your eyes improves focus and reduces distractions.

2. Allow your muscles to relax, especially the neck, shoulders, jaw, face, back and anywhere you are tense.

3. Take a few deep breaths, paying attention to the physical sensation of breathing.

4. Notice the pause at the end of the out-breath. Without prolonging that pause or thinking about it, experience its calmness, quietness and peacefulness.

5. Shifting your attention to your belly, allow your belly to be soft, rising with the in-breath and falling with the out-breath. A soft belly increases the movement of the diaphragm. This stimulates the parasympathetic (“rest and digest”) impulses of the vagus nerve, which runs through the diaphragm, acting as an antidote to the sympathetic (“fight or flight”) impulses of the stress response.

6. Finally, simply feel the physical sensations of the breath in the nostrils, throat, chest and belly. Notice when the thinking mind wanders and, without judging yourself, simply return attention to feeling the breath.

To maximize the benefits of mindful breathing, practice this routine for five to 20 minutes once or twice daily.


Next steps:

  • Learn more about Jin Shin Jyutsu, a practice offered at UK HealthCare that uses light touch to assist with pain, stress, nausea, and other uncomfortable physical and emotional side effects of treatment and illness.
  • Managing your stress can do wonders for your heart health. Here are some more tips to help keep your heart in tip-top shape.