Stressed? How to instantly calm and center yourself

Stressed BusinesswomanWhen we’re stressed, our minds work overtime. Our pulse quickens. Our breathing becomes more shallow. Our bodies are preparing for a “fight or flight” response to the source of stress.

This is well enough if we’re eye-to-eye with a hungry lion. But what if we’re experiencing ongoing stress due to job, relationship, health, money, or other worries?

Most of us only use the top third of our lungs when we breathe. Our breathing becomes even more shallow when we’re stressed—which adds to our stress because we’re not fully exhaling the waste products of respiration.

The next time you’re feeling stressed, try this easy “calming-breathing” technique, which stimulates the relaxation response. It calms your body and mind.

Calming-breathing technique

  1. Place your hand on your lower belly.

  2. Gently breathe in through your nose so your lower belly rises. Time your inhale to a mental count of four.

  3. Hold your breath in for a count of one.

  4. Gently breathe out to a mental count of four. Notice how your belly falls.

  5. Hold your breath out for a count of one.

  6. Repeating this sequence a few times.

When to use the calming-breathing technique

• Before and after a stressful situation

• When feel tense or whenever you want to relax

• Before you eat. This breathing promotes mindful eating, while reducing “stress eating.”

• To help you fall asleep or get back to sleep

Your turn

What’s your favorite stress reliever? Leave a comment below!

Come do tai chi with us!

Mindful, deep breathing is key to tai chi.  Join our tai chi classes, which give you a fresh, fun, easy-to-follow approach to the ancient martial art and health practice of tai chi. Yes, we weave in some qigong! Grab our schedule and other details.


  1. says

    Isn’t it funny that something so simple as breathing can make such a huge difference – when you do it right of course. I’m in love with “The Vision Meditation” on my Omvana app. It’s my daily practice. It took me a half a dozen times listening to it to realize the music was mimicking the breath. I’ll use your technique along side it when I use it next. Thanks!

  2. says

    This was such a timely post, Marie! I’ve been feeling stressed lately due to a lot of to-dos. My favourite stress relievers are walking my dog, a hardcore kickboxing session and curling up with a good book.

Leave a Reply