Address Stress the Easy Way: Breathe

Laura Mitchell's picture
By Laura Mitchell on September 1, 2015

Feeling stressed? Here’s a quick antidote: as you read this sentence, take a slow, deep breath in through your nose while counting to three, then take the same amount of time to exhale slowly through your mouth.

How is your stress level now?

It is a cliché to say "stop and smell the roses," but we live in such a fast-paced world and have so many pressures to respond to requests immediately (given current technology), that we often don’t take the time to do that. According to Tara Mitchell, Ph.D., a licensed clinical psychologist at Carilion Children’s, just one minute of closing your eyes and taking some deep breaths, pushing out life’s stressors, can be very effective.

"Ironically, taking the time to stop for a moment and breathe will actually make a person even more productive because they have reduced their stress level," said Mitchell. "This is because deep breaths will lower blood pressure, slow down the heart rate and increase the brain’s ability to concentrate."

And you don’t have to change your routine to benefit from deep breathing. While finding a spare half-hour or more for meditation may be a challenge, most of us have multiple opportunities for mini-meditations throughout the day. They may include:

  • When stopped at a red light.
  • When climbing stairs or riding the elevator.
  • Before reading an incoming text or answering the phone.
  • When switching from one task to another at work.
  • When chopping vegetables for dinner.

Essentially, anytime you are waiting—and tempted to reach for your smartphone—stop and take a few slow, deep breaths. Take in your surroundings, feel the air fill your lungs, imagine the oxygen enriching your blood and exhale.

As Mitchell said, “It really can take just a moment to rejuvenate your brain, which in turn will affect your mood, your level of stress and your interaction with others.”

And who knows, you may find those few slow, deep breaths so relaxing that a half-hour of meditation doesn't seem so challenging after all.