Breathing Techniques for Stress Reduction and Better Sleep
Updated: Oct 20, 2021
With everything going on right now throughout the world, we can all expect to experience a certain level of stress, anxiety, fatigue, and overwhelm. This is natural, and it’s okay!
You may be feeling very wired where you can’t sit still with no real progress, can’t keep your mind from running, or as though you have to keep moving even though you are exhausted. You may just want to hug yourself, be comfy cozy, rest, and sleep. Or you may experience both, either alternately or even at the same time (wired on the inside and exhausted on the outside).
You may be feeling this overwhelm and anxiety in the center of your chest with a racing heart or palpitations, through a racing and foggy brain, or in your body through exhaustion no matter how much sleep you get.
Even though this is a strange and tough time for many, let’s try to master the mind before the mind masters us so we can settle some of this anxiety. We just have to trust the process and let go of a need for complete control. All we can do is work on ourselves by eating nutrient dense foods, keeping movement a priority (even if it is just daily stretching), and keeping our hydration up.
Even cleaning out the home (especially the kitchen and bedroom) or office can be a very healing activity to rid your life of unnecessary junk and stress and welcome a clear and clean environment. The brain sees clutter as 'disease'.
For those of you that:
Are running around, unable to stop – take a moment … breathe, maybe give yourself a hug and center yourself in the here and now.
Are experiencing a slow down in life (job loss, unable to travel or see family) - take what the universe is giving you in these slower times and spend this time rejuvenating and organizing. Usually when life slows down, it means it will be picking up soon ... use this special time.
Are feeling down, overwhelmed, and anxious or just want to rest and sleep – you can – listen to your body. But, what you might really need is a pleasant walk outside, or run up and down the steps - shake that anxiety off!
There are many natural ways to keep ourselves grounded, centered, and at peace during these times.
Eat warm nutrient dense meals
Utilize calming herbal teas (check out "Healing Herbal Teas")
Get some movement daily, even if it's just stretching
Speak with your Clinical Nutritionist about stress management supplements based on your specific circumstance and test results
Get daily sunlight
Practice breathing techniques to lower stress
I want to share two powerful breathing techniques with you. The first is called 4-7-8 by Dr. Andrew Weil. It can be used throughout the day and before bed. The other I call the sandbag technique, which will help you fall asleep or meditate.
The 4-7-8 Breathing Technique
Place both feet on the floor (preferably without shoes and outside) and sit straight up in your chair. Make sure you feel your bottom evenly on your seat. Imagine your feet are grounded to the core of the earth. Breathe in and out a few times to stabilize your breath a bit. Then when you are ready, breathe in through your nose for 4 seconds … hold that breath for 7 seconds … and then with the tip of your tongue to the roof of your mouth, slowly exhale for 8 seconds.
This powerful technique is a very grounding and centering practice that can be repeated 3 times in a row. Try to do this a few times a day and before bed or whenever you feel anxious or overwhelmed. It will help your body return to homeostasis, where you are better able to handle stress and think more clearly.
Sand Bag Technique
When you are ready for sleep or just need to relax, lay on your back with the palms of your hands facing upwards towards the ceiling/sky. Take a few breaths in through the nose and out through the nose. You can start this exercise with 4-7-8 if you would like to and then go to 4 seconds in and 4 seconds out (extend this inhale/exhale as your body wants).
When you are ready, imagine that you are a bag of sand. Start with the focus on your toes and with each breath out – relax them until there is no tension left, like the bag of sand has opened, and the granules slowly and calmly spill out. Move on to your feet and do the same. Move on to your heels, ankles, legs, knees, thighs, pelvis, abdomen, chest – focus more on each area of the back and shoulders – drop the shoulders, neck, the back of your head up and over to your forehead, then down through the eyes, ears, nose, cheeks, mouth, chin.
If your mind starts to wonder while doing this exercise, just say ‘no thank you,’ and bring your focus back to your breathing (breathe in through your nose for 1, 2, 3, 4 … and out through your nose for 1, 2, 3, 4) as your body relaxes more and more with each breath. You can daydream a bit if you can keep your focus on breathing – a walk on the beach or through the woods – something simple like this.
This technique can take time to master, so do not get frustrated or give up too quickly. Take your time with it and keep trying until it is learned because it is a great stress management tool to have.
Feel as though you need extra support?
It is always best to connect with us on your specific circumstance or to do functional testing to check in on WHY your stress handling ability may be low. Every person is different and therefore specific herbs/nutrients will work better for each individual. Easy overwhelm or lower ability to DEAL with stress can be due to many things including insufficient or deficient B Vitamins or Amino Acids that produce Neurotransmitters like serotonin and dopamine. Our testing will give you those answers.
Here are some of my favorite stress handling supplements:
CBD (Designs for Health Cannab-FS or CV Sciences +Plus CBD)
Fish Oils (Nordic Naturals or Designs for Health)
B Vitamin Complex (methylated forms)
V.H.P (Biotics Research)
Supplements can be purchased HERE.