Back to Blog

Easy breathing exercises to help manage stress

Easy breathing exercises to help manage stress

Written by Jess Mason | 4th June 2020

Stress! We all know it, we’ve all felt it. Your heart starts to race, your breathing feels shallow, your muscles start to tense, and you may even start to sweat. It can be very distracting and overwhelming, and it’s difficult to focus on much else. These are all normal physiological reactions as our body prepares us to deal with the problem in front of us. It is what is commonly known as our “fight or flight” response. We are in high alert mode, ready to respond to danger!

Luckily for us though, in our everyday lives, stress is not usually coming from a dangerous or life-threatening situation. It is more often coming from things like important deadlines, heavy workloads, family dramas, financial concerns, or relationship issues. While these are very real concerns and stressful situations, physically running away is not usually a helpful response. So, do we really need our heart rate and breathing to speed up?

While we can’t stop these physiological reactions from happening (they are important life-saving reactions after all!), there are things we can do to help reverse the effects and calm our nervous system back down. Breathing is something everyone can control, so it is a great tool to use to help hijack your nervous system and tell your body to calm down.

There are a lot of breathing exercises out there, but these are 3 of Jess Mason’s favourites to help her take deeper and slower breaths, clear her mind, and relax tension in her body. Give one of these a go next time you are feeling a bit overwhelmed and see how they make you feel.


This is a quick and simple exercise that you can do anywhere, any time to help reset your breathing rate, and clear your mind.

  1. Close your eyes. Breath in through your nose as you slowly count to 4.
  2. Hold your breath, for another 4 counts.
  3. Slowly breath out through your mouth, again as you slowly count to 4.
  4. Pause after your exhale for another 4, and then repeat.
  5. Complete this cycle at least three times, or until you begin to feel more relaxed.

If you find the counts of 4 to be too much initially, start with counts of 3 until you feel more in control and then work your up to 4.


This technique helps you focus your mind, and take much deeper breaths.

  1. Find a comfortable position. I often recommend lying on your back with your knees bent up, though you can choose to do this sitting in a comfortable chair.
  2. Place one hand on your belly, and one hand on your chest.
  3. Take a deep breath in through your nose and feel for your belly rising.
  4. Slowly breath out through your mouth and feel the belly lower.
  5. Try to ensure your belly is rising more than your chest.
  6. Repeat for 5-10 breaths, until you are feeling relaxed and calm.


This exercise not only helps you to slow your breath, and calm your mind, but it also helps reduce tension in the body.

  1. Lie down in a comfortable position.
  2. Start by taking a few deep, slow breaths.
  3. When you’re ready, bring your attention to your feet. As you breathe in, try to tense the muscles in your feet and scrunch your toes.
  4. As you breathe out, relax your feet and let all the tension go.
  5. Next, bring your attention to your calves and repeat the exercise. Breath in and tense, breath out and relax.
  6. Continue to work your way through each area of the body all the way up to your face and jaw. (You may be surprised where you are holding tension. Even try tensing and relaxing your eyes!)

By the time you get to your head your body should be feeling much more relaxed, and your mind much calmer.

Give these exercises a go and see what works for you!

If you would like some additional support regarding reducing your stress or learning new breathing techniques, the team at Canterbury Health Hub are here to support you. Book an appointment online today.