A Simple Trick that Will Help Relieve Stress

breathing can reduce stress

Stress is just about as common as brown eyes in our country.

In a recent study conducted by the American Psychological Association, 1 in 4 American adults reported that they have been experiencing long-term chronic stress. Most of the rest of us admit to encountering “situational” stress on a pretty regular basis. With all you are dealing with, it would not be surprising to find you in one of these two groups .

Unfortunately, stress is much more damaging than just feeling bad or overwhelmed for a period of time.

Medical science shows a strong correlation between high levels of stress and heart disease, asthma, obesity, diabetes, headaches, depression, gastrointestinal problems, Alzheimer’s, accelerated aging and premature death. Some professionals think that as high as 80% of our medical problems are stress-related. That alone is a good case for learning to manage our stress.


What is stressful is not the same for everyone. Our brain is continually scanning the world around us. It  looks for anything it perceives could be a threat to OUR personal well-being. When it finds something, it quickly determines whether we have the resources to effectively deal with it or not.

If, because of our past experiences or beliefs, our brain concludes that a situation may be more than we can manage, it tags it as dangerous. That label causes us to feel anxiety and stress. It also activates a variety of body responses to prepare us to carry out the fight, flight, or freeze response our brain believes will save us.

If, on the other hand, our brain decides that our skills and resources are most likely sufficient to handle the threat, even something that would normally be extremely stressful to others, will not have the same effect on us.


When we feel stressed, our body increases its production of the chemicals that trigger the increased heart rate, blood pressure, muscle tension and alertness that we will need to respond to the perceived danger. In addition, it slows down things like our digestive and immune systems that will not be helpful in protecting us in a dangerous or challenging situation, so that all our resources can be directed toward those things that will.

In truly dangerous situations, this is a short term response that gets us to a place of safety. But if, because of unresolved issues, we are under perpetual stress and begin to live full-time in a place of heightened readiness, it will, over time, “burn out” our body. Continual high levels of stress hormones have a caustic effect similar to battery acid.

Exploring past wounds can, ultimately, help you resolve the core issues that cause many of these stress responses. But, until that happens, there is a very simple exercise that can help you reduce stress and the effect it has on your body.


One of the best ways you can lower your stress levels is to practice deep breathing. It sounds too easy to be of help, but you may be surprised.

1. Close your eyes,
2. Breathe in deeply through your nose as you slowly count to six.
3. Hold your breath to the count to three
4. Slowly exhale through your mouth, while you again count to six.
5. Relax for a few seconds and repeat the exercise until you’re feeling calmer.
6. Pay attention to any areas of your body that feel particularly tense.
7. Deliberately try to relax those muscles as you continue to breathe.

Interestingly enough, studies have shown that this kind of slow, intentional breathing—in through your nose, out through your mouth—actually cools down your brain, allowing you to think more clearly and solve problems better.


Next time you feel the stress building, stop and take a few minutes to breathe! Learning how to proactively handle stress can actually be a big step toward better health and an increased capacity for coping with all the things life throws your way.

“But I have calmed and quieted myself, I am like a weaned child with its mother; like a weaned child I am content.” —Psalm 131:2

TODAY’S CHAT: If you tried this stress relief technique, did you notice any difference? What other healthy activities have you found helpful in relieving stress? We’d love to hear about them!

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