Since breathing is something we can control and regulate, it is a useful tool for achieving a relaxed and clear state of mind. I recommend three breathing exercises to help relax and reduce stress: The Stimulating Breath, The 4-7-8 Breathing Exercise (also called the Relaxing Breath), and Breath Counting. Try each and see how they affect your stress and anxiety levels.
The Stimulating Breath (also called the Bellows Breath)
The Stimulating Breath is adapted from a yogic breathing technique. Its aim is to raise vital energy and increase alertness.
Inhale and exhale rapidly through your nose, keeping your mouth closed but relaxed. Your breaths in and out should be equal in duration, but as short as possible. This is a noisy breathing exercise.
Try for three in-and-out breath cycles per second. This produces a quick movement of the diaphragm, suggesting a bellows. Breathe normally after each cycle.
Do not do for more than 15 seconds on your first try. Each time you practice the Stimulating Breath, you can increase your time by five seconds or so, until you reach a full minute.
If done properly, you may feel invigorated, comparable to the heightened awareness you feel after a good workout. You should feel the effort at the back of the neck, the diaphragm, the chest and the abdomen. Try this breathing exercise the next time you need an energy boost and feel yourself reaching for a cup of coffee.
The 4-7-8 (or Relaxing Breath) Exercise
This exercise is utterly simple, takes almost no time, requires no equipment and can be done anywhere. Although you can do the exercise in any position, sit with your back straight while learning the exercise. Place the tip of your tongue against the ridge of tissue just behind your upper front teeth, and keep it there through the entire exercise. You will be exhaling through your mouth around your tongue; try pursing your lips slightly if this seems awkward.
Exhale completely through your mouth, making a whoosh sound.
Close your mouth and inhale quietly through your nose to a mental count of four.
Hold your breath for a count of seven.
Exhale completely through your mouth, making a whoosh sound to a count of eight.
This is one breath. Now inhale again and repeat the cycle three more times for a total of four breaths.
Note that you always inhale quietly through your nose and exhale audibly through your mouth. The tip of your tongue stays in position the whole time. Exhalation takes twice as long as inhalation. The absolute time you spend on each phase is not important; the ratio of 4:7:8 is important. If you have trouble holding your breath, speed the exercise up but keep to the ratio of 4:7:8 for the three phases. With practice you can slow it all down and get used to inhaling and exhaling more and more deeply.
This exercise is a natural tranquilizer for the nervous system. Unlike tranquilizing drugs, which are often effective when you first take them but then lose their power over time, this exercise is subtle when you first try it but gains in power with repetition and practice. Do it at least twice a day. You cannot do it too frequently. Do not do more than four breaths at one time for the first month of practice. Later, if you wish, you can extend it to eight breaths. If you feel a little lightheaded when you first breathe this way, do not be concerned; it will pass.
Once you develop this technique by practicing it every day, it will be a very useful tool that you will always have with you. Use it whenever anything upsetting happens - before you react. Use it whenever you are aware of internal tension. Use it to help you fall asleep. This exercise cannot be recommended too highly. Everyone can benefit from it.
If you want to get a feel for this challenging work, try your hand at breath counting, a deceptively simple technique much used in Zen practice.
Sit in a comfortable position with the spine straight and head inclined slightly forward. Gently close your eyes and take a few deep breaths. Then let the breath come naturally without trying to influence it. Ideally it will be quiet and slow, but depth and rhythm may vary.
To begin the exercise, count "one" to yourself as you exhale.
The next time you exhale, count "two," and so on up to "five."
Then begin a new cycle, counting "one" on the next exhalation.
Never count higher than "five," and count only when you exhale. You will know your attention has wandered when you find yourself up to "eight," "12," even "19."
Try to do 10 minutes of this form of meditation.
If you find that the demands on your time are overwhelming, don't be afraid to politely say "no" when someone asks you to do something.
Don't feel guilty. No one person can do it all, so learn your limits and be satisfied with them.
Be a little selfish once in a while by scheduling "me time" - it will help keep you grounded and in touch with your thoughts and feelings.
Take time to enjoy the little things. Read a book, start an art project, work in the garden or treat yourself to a massage.
Bring the outdoors in. Green plants, cut flowers and blooming bulbs (like amaryllis), pieces of wood, rocks and other organic elements can create a feeling of nature indoors.
Paint a room to suggest a mood. For instance, blue and green promote a relaxed feeling and may be good choices for the bedroom, while warm colors (maroon, coral, burgundy) suggest a cozy environment and may be inviting in a family room.
Surround your senses with beauty. Artwork, fragrance, smooth textures and calming sounds all provide a pleasant environment in which to relax.
Set aside a room or area for peace and calm. A place for spiritual reflection and meditation can provide shelter from noise and distraction.
Clean out clutter. A low-maintenance home is refreshing after a day of hectic meetings, errands and chores. Fewer items can mean less frustration.
Create an atmosphere of love. Display handmade or meaningful gifts from loved ones and photos of family and friends.
If you want to reduce unhealthy stress, start by identifying the problems and situations that create stress - then learn to manage them by practicing general techniques of stress protection, such as breathing exercises. As for supplements, consider the following
Multivitamin. A daily multivitamin can help to fill nutritional gaps and counteract the negative effects of unhealthy stress on the body.
B-complex. B vitamins can help balance mood, calm the nervous system, and increase the efficacy of some prescription anti-depressants.
Omega-3 (fish oil) supplement. Either from molecularly distilled fish oil or from krill. A deficiency in omega-3 fatty acids has been associated with increased anxiety and depression.
Valerian (Valeriana officinalis). An extract from the root of this flowering perennial contains essential oils that have been shown to help some people more effectively deal with stress.
Calcium and magnesium. Both are involved in many key physiologic processes and may help support healthy sleep, as well as muscle relaxation.
St. John's wort (Hypericum perforatum). Extracts of this flowering herb, indigenous to Europe, may help boost mood and maintain a healthy emotional outlook.
No doubt gymdandee's exercises will be helpful and you should do them. But that does not mean that you do not have a physical problem that has not been diagnosed. "Stress" or "anxiety" always seems to be the diagnosis when the doctors don't know what is wrong with you. I have been in that situation and it turned me off medicine for many years. Then, in finding a cure for one of my daughters who was a semi-invalid with an undiagnosed pediatric ailment, I discovered alternative medicine. She had been sick for four years and was cured in three weeks.
Don't give up. Somewhere out there is the answer.
To calm the stomach - take one part dhania(coriander seeds) and two parts mishri(candy sugar/sugar diamonds) – mix and take one spoonful and chew slowly in the mouth, letting the saliva mix with it.Take this first thing in the morning.
Do kapalbhati pranayam for 5 to 10 minutes, twice a day, on an empty stomach(before food).
January 9 ,2011
Also, you would be wise to take Hava's advice.