How to Deep Breathe

Medically Reviewed by Dan Brennan, MD on July 12, 2023
3 min read

When you or your kids are stressed and need to relax, don't point them to the TV or the pantry. Chips or channels don't provide relief. Instead, take a deep breath.

Deep breathing is an easy way to relax and let your worries go. You can do it pretty much anywhere, and it only takes a few minutes.

Also called belly breathing, diaphragmatic breathing, and abdominal breathing, it helps ease stress. It can also lower your blood pressure and relax tense muscles. When you learn healthy ways to relax, it can be easier to avoid unhealthy choices. Stress makes it harder to make healthy choices like picking good foods or finding the energy to exercise. When you’re relaxed, you can be more mindful.

Use this step-by-step guide to learn how to blow away your stress, then teach your kids how to manage stress in a helpful way. Everyone can benefit from a little calming, healthy relaxation.

1. Find a comfortable, quiet place to sit or lie down. Choose a spot where you know you won't be disturbed. If sitting, keep your back straight and your feet flat on the floor. Close your eyes.

2. Place one hand on your belly, just below your ribs. Place the other hand on your chest.

3. Take a regular breath.

4. Now take a slow, deep breath. Breathe in slowly through your nose. Pay attention as your belly swells up under your hand.

5. Holding your breath, pause for a second or two.

6. Slowly breathe out through your mouth. Pay attention as the hand on your belly goes in with the breath.

7. Do this several times until you have a calming rhythm.

8. Now add images to your breathing. As you inhale, imagine that the air you're breathing is spreading relaxation and calmness throughout your body.

9. As you exhale, imagine that your breath is whooshing away stress and tension.

10. Try to deep breathe for 10 minutes or until you feel relaxed and less stressed. Gradually work your way up to 15-20 minutes.

If you're frazzled and don't have 10 minutes to de-stress, even a few deep breaths can help. Once you've practiced it a few times, a mini-version of this exercise can help ease tension. Just imagine that each breath is sweeping away stress, and you may calm your anxiety in just a minute or two.

Try to schedule time for deep breathing every day. You may want to start your day with it. Or you may want to wait until the afternoon when the kids are home from school and do it together. It can help them wash away some of the stress of their day and prepare everyone for a calmer, more relaxing evening. Deep breathing before bed can be a soothing part of a bedtime routine. Choose a time that works for you and your kids if they are involved. Try to keep the same routine on a daily basis to gain the most benefit out of it.

Once you learn how to deep breathe, you can use it to calm you anywhere. When you're sitting at your desk or doing work around the house, be aware of your breathing and the stress you are feeling. Remember your deep breathing routine and let the stress fade away.