Breathing techniques for stress reduction and better sleep

Breathing techniques for stress reduction and better sleep

With everything going on right now throughout the world, we can all expect to experience a certain level of stress, anxiety, fatigue, and overwhelm. This is natural, and it’s okay. You may be feeling very wired where you can’t sit still, can’t keep your mind from running, or as though you have to keep moving. Or you may just want to hug yourself, be comfy cozy, rest, and sleep. And you may be feeling this overwhelm and anxiety in the center of your chest. Or you may experience both, either alternately or even at the same time.

Even though this is a strange and tough situation for many, let’s try to master the mind a little before the mind masters us so we can settle some of this anxiety. We just have to trust the process right now. We’re all unable to live our lives to the fullest right now. All of us. All we can do is work on staying calm, keep our immune system up, clean a closet or two, and we will be fine. Let’s not let the MIND take over.

For those that are running around, unable to stop – try to stop … breathe, maybe give yourself a hug. When life slows down, there’s not much we can do about it, so take what the universe is giving you right now and slow down a bit. For those feeling down, overwhelmed, and anxious or just want to rest and sleep – you can – listen to your body. But, what you really might need is a pleasant walk outside, or run up and down the steps, or around the house. Shake that anxiety off.

There are many natural ways to keep ourselves grounded, centered, and at peace during this time.

These include:

  • Eat warm meals
  • Utilize calming herbal teas
  • Get some movement daily, even just stretching
  • Speak with your Clinical Nutritionist about stress management supplements based on your specific circumstance and test results
  • Practice breathing techniques to lower stress

I want to share two powerful breathing techniques with you. The first is called 4-7-8 by Dr. Andrew Weil. It can be used throughout the day and before bed. The other I call the sandbag technique, which will help you fall asleep.

The 4-7-8 Breathing Technique

Place both feet on the floor (preferably without shoes) and sit straight up in your chair. Make sure you feel your bottom evenly on your seat. Imagine your feet are grounded to the core of the earth. Breathe in and out a few times to stabilize your breath a bit. Then when you are ready, breathe in through your nose for 4 seconds … hold that breath for 7 seconds … and then with the tip of your tongue to the roof of your mouth, slowly exhale for 8 seconds.

This powerful technique is a very grounding and centering practice that can be repeated 3 times in a row. Try to do this a few times a day and before bed or whenever you feel anxious or overwhelmed. It will help your body return to homeostasis, where you are better able to handle stress.

Sand Bag Technique

When you are ready for sleep or just need to relax, lay on your back with the palms of your hands facing upwards towards the ceiling. Take a few breaths in through the nose and out through the nose. You can start this exercise with 4-7-8 if you would like to. When you are ready, imagine that you are a bag of sand. Start with the focus on your toes and with each breath out – relax them until there is no tension left, like the bag of sand, has opened, and the granules slowly and calmly spill out. Move on to your feet and do the same. Move on to your heels, ankles, legs, knees, thighs, pelvis, abdomen, chest – focus more on each area of the back and shoulders – drop the shoulders, neck, the back of your head up and over to your forehead, then down through the eyes, ears, nose, cheeks, mouth, chin.

If your mind starts to wonder while doing this exercise, just say ‘no thank you,’ and bring your focus back to your breathing (breathe in for 1, 2, 3 … and out for 1, 2, 3) and your body relaxing more and more with each breath. You can daydream a bit if you can keep your focus on breathing – a walk on the beach or through the woods – something simple like this. This technique can take time to master, so do not get frustrated or give up too quickly. Take your time with it and keep trying until it is learned because it is a great tool to have.

Stay safe and healthy, and remember that we are here for you if you need us.

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