Bella Dodds

Stress + Anxiety

Integrative Health Coach


A Quick Breathing Exercise to Calm Your Mind from Stress, Anxiety or Insomnia

Your respiratory system is intimately intertwined with your stress levels. When you are under stress or when your body is triggered by unresolved or unconscious stress your breathing will automatically be short and shallow.

If you find yourself feeling anxious, worried, upset, angry, nervous or are having trouble falling asleep – take a moment to pause and notice your breathing.

Is your breath short and shallow?

Are you breathing into your chest and neck rather than your abdomen?

Are you holding your breath?

Are you looking somewhat manikin like? ūüôā

Our society is predominantly a chest breathing culture. We spend so much of the time in our heads thinking about all that we need to do that we often get disconnected from the rest of our body. If your breathing is rapid and shallow your body is in a state of tension and unease, and spending hours in this state will contribute to physical pain, headaches, chronic fatigue, overwhelm, anxiety, physical and emotional tension…etc, etc.) To help your levels of stress you want to engage your¬†diaphragm¬†and practice Diaphragmatic Breathing. The diaphragm is the PRIMARY¬†RESPIRATORY¬†muscle; however, many breathe with the smaller secondary¬†respiratory¬†muscles that are similar to the size of your fingers that attach from the neck down to the upper ribs one and two.

This is why chest breathing is much more shallow, while also contributing to neck pain, stiffness, arm pain, fatigue and headaches. These little muscles were not designed to be the primary respiratory muscles for your entire body. The diaphragm on the other hand is a very large muscle underneath both of your lungs and its main purpose is to help your body breathe and bring oxygen to each one of your 70 trillion cells. (See diagram) Neck breathing is like pulling a dog sled with a bunch of little spastic bunnies instead of strong strapping dogs. Yeah the bunnies will get the job done to a degree, but it is not going to be pretty! And given the choice would you use hyper fearful bunnies or a strong pack of huskies with exceptional endurance ready to run for miles?

Diaphragmatic Breathing Exercise

First take a moment to notice what you are stressed about – is there something going on in your life that is stressful? Something at work that is difficult? Is someone in particular causing you sadness, anger, or frustration? Have your kids been pushing your buttons all day? Are you beating yourself up about not being a good parent?

If you are at work you can sit comfortably and put your hands on your abdomen Рif you are at home you can lie down and get as comfortable as possible also placing your hands on your belly. This exercise can be done in a short time frame for 10-15 even, slow, deep breaths in and out -or it can be done for 5-10+ minutes.

Combining deep diaphragmatic breathing say in your mind something YOU WANT TO BREATHE IN and on your slow exhalation say something YOU WANT TO LET GO OF. For example:

I inhale peace and relaxation, I let go of stress and worry

*Remember you are doing deep abdominal breathing feeling your hands rise slowly as you breathe into your stomach and feeling your hands fall as you exhale slowly and completely. This will have an immediate calming effect on your nervous system, mind and emotions. If you have never tried breathing into your abdomen it can may be tricky at first, but with a little practice your diaphragm will be happy to get to perform the role it was designed to do.

1. Other examples you can say on the inhalation:

  • I inhale calm and presence
  • I inhale serenity
  • I inhale love
  • I inhale connection to all that is
  • I inhale feeling whole and enough
  • I inhale confidence
  • I inhale truth and wisdom

2. On the exhalation you can say:

  • I let go of worry and fear
  • I let go of anger and resentment
  • I let go of anxiety
  • I let go of feeling not enough
  • I let go of tension
  • I let go of feeling overwhelmed and alone
  • I let go of doubt
  • I let go of the illusion

What are you holding onto that you would benefit you if you let go of?

What would you love to breathe in and be supported by?

Do this exercise for as long as you like or until you feel a shift in your energy and internal environment…and for good measure to remind you to take deeper breaths throughout the day I will end this post with a song I love to sing!

In Health and Wisdom,


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