How do breathing exercises relieve stress?
When you’re facing a stressful situation, you can reduce your
stress simply by deep breathing. Deep breathing involves not only the
lungs but also the abdomen. To experience abdominal breathing, sit
comfortably with your back straight. Put one hand on your chest and
the other on your stomach. Inhale through your nose and the hand on
your stomach should begin to rise. Your other hand should move very
little. Exhale as much air as you can while contracting your abdominal
muscles. Once again, the hand on your stomach should move in as you
exhale, but your other hand should move very little.
If you have a hard time breathing from your abdomen sitting up, lie on
the floor, put a small book on your stomach, and try to breathe so
that the book rises as you inhale and falls as you exhale. Breathing
techniques can be practised almost anywhere and can be combined with
other relaxation exercises, such as aromatherapy and music. All you
really need is 10 minutes a day and a place to stretch out.
What can meditation do to relieve stress?
When you meditate you bring together all of the mind’s energies
and focus them on a word, a sound, a symbol, a comforting image, or
your own breathing. The optimal setting for meditation is a quiet,
clean place. People typically meditate sitting on the floor or in a
chair with their eyes closed.
Meditation involves both effort and passive participation.
It takes effort to bring your attention back to your chosen focus but
you also become simply a witness to everything that happens: random
thoughts, sensory input, body sensations, such as itches and cramps
and external stimuli. As a result, you incorporate them into the
meditation experience. All meditation practices involve the
development of mindfulness — being fully engaged in whatever is
happening in the present moment, without analysing or otherwise
“over-thinking” the experience.
A variation of traditional meditation involves guided imagery
or visualisation. If you use this method, you’ll imagine a
scene in which you feel at peace, able to let go of all concerns and
tensions. In guided imagery, audio instructions help you visualise the
scene, focus your thoughts and relax.
You don’t have to be seated or still to meditate. In walking
meditation, mindfulness involves being focused on the
physicality of each step — the sensation of your feet touching the
ground, the rhythm of your breath while moving, feeling the wind
against your face.