According to Germany’s association for psychiatrists, certain breathing techniques can help reduce stress both in the short and long term.
“Breathing is very susceptible to stressful situations,” said Christa Roth-Sackenheim of the Neuss-based association, adding that breathing reacts immediately to psychological or physical changes.
Breathing also is the only body function that can be consciously controlled, although normally it continues uninterrupted and involuntarily.
“Consciously taking deep breaths by expanding the abdomen and sides of the body, for example, can slow the pulse. The body gets more oxygen, putting it in a better state for thinking,” said Roth- Sackenheim, a psychiatrist and psychotherapist from Andernach.
The basic recommendation is to take a deep breath after a stressful situation and to reach a relaxed state through slow, regular breathing.
“With every breath one should feel how the stomach moves and the abdominal muscles relax,” Roth-Sackenheim said, describing a simple breathing technique. With continued breathing certain muscle groups tense up when inhaling and relax while exhaling. In succession, the feet, hands, upper body, jaw and finally the stomach tighten with each inhalation, said Roth-Sackenheim.
To better deal with stress over the long term, the expert recommends relaxation methods in addition to breathing techniques. Many relaxation methods such as progressive muscle relaxation include breathing techniques, Roth Sackenheim said.