Breathwork and Flow States Stress

3 breathwork techniques to stay calm when pressure is on

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About the author

This article was written by Flow Lab's Head of Content and MSc. psychologist Eva Siem. She studied at the University of Groningen (NL) and is specialized in the area of performance and motivational psychology. In her articles, she combines findings from psychological research with practical tips from her experience as mental fitness coach and workshop trainer.

We know it all too well: The list of To-Dos is growing faster than you can say “oxygen”. Every day we are juggling between work, leisure time and social life, trying to squeeze in our duties and responsibilities. And somewhere between guilty conscience and motivation we might even find a time slot for a quick workout. So it comes as no surprise then, that we are “out of breath”…
When pressure is on and stress takes over, our breathing tends to become irregular and shallow. We are often not aware of this habit, but it harms our well-being and productivity. Shallow breathing stimulates the so-called ‘sympathetic’ branch of our autonomic nervous system. This is the activating system in the body, which increases stress levels even further. At the same time, our brains don’t get enough oxygen, which impairs our cognitive performance. (If you like to learn more about the science behind breathing, check out this article).
Especially in challenging situations, it is therefore all too important to take a deep breath and calm down. So here are the top 3 breathing techniques that help you stay poised and focused in hectic times:

3 breathing techniques that help you relax


Breathwork technique #1: Relaxation breathing

Catch your breath with this first technique. Relaxation breathing simply focuses on extended exhalation. So breathe in deeply through the nose. Hold your breath up there for around 3 seconds. And then breathe out as slowly and evenly as possible. Let your exhalations become longer with every breath you take. This way you stimulate the parasympathetic nervous system – the relaxation system in the body. A few breaths are already a fantastic start to release some tension. For a guided version, go ahead and train that with our Flow Session “Breather”.

Breathwork technique #2: 3-Part breathing

Shallow breathing basically means that we breathe more into the chest and less into the belly. Taking a deep breath into the belly, however, is exactly what would help us calm down. Specifically, breathing into the belly stimulates the vagus nerve. This is a part of the autonomic nervous system that triggers the relaxation response.
With the 3-part breathing the air will flow evenly through your body. You’ll activate all muscles involved with breathing. So, when you breathe in, you let the air flow into the belly first, then into the sides and finally into the chest. When exhaling, the air flows out of the chest first, then out of the sides and finally out of the belly. Repeat this technique for a few minutes and feel how your body and also your mind become calmer and calmer.

Breathwork technique #3: 4-5-6 breathing

This technique is great because everyone should be able to make it fit into their schedule. Four times a day, you breathe in for five seconds. Then slowly breathe out again for six seconds while lowering your shoulders and relieving any tension that you may be holding there. A small, but effective reminder on chaotic days to take a breath and calm down.
As you can see, it’s worthwhile to take a short breather every now and then. And with a little practice, it will become easier and easier for you to stay calm and relaxed even in hectic times.
And it’s also useful in the long run. Because breathwork can be an effective tool to improve your mental and emotional fitness. So get started and make breathwork your routine!
For more breathing techniques, check out the Flow Lab app.