Three Minutes to Stress Relief!

Medical Author: Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD
Medical Editor: Barbara K. Hecht, PhD

Effective stress control results in the enhancement of both mental and physical well-being. Exercise and practice of relaxation methods are the best ways to keep chronic stress in check, but it isn't realistic to take a jog or a meditation break every time you're faced with a stressful situation.

You can, however, practice techniques like controlled-breathing exercises when you feel your stress levels soaring. The following exercise in breathing can be done for as little as three to five minutes at a time and is an effective way to halt escalating feelings of anger, tension, and frustration.

Controlled-breathing exercise:

  1. Sit upright in a comfortable position.

  2. Focus on your present state and existence (this is often termed being "mindful"). Block out intrusive thoughts. You may close your eyes if you wish.

  3. Pay attention to your breathing. Inhale slowly through the nose, taking several seconds.

  4. Exhale through the mouth, trying to make the exhalation phase last twice as long as the inhalation.

  5. Continue this mindful breathing for three to five minutes.

If you like, you can increase the practice to 15-20 minutes per day. With regular practice, you can train your body to relax in stressful situations by using this exercise.

This exercise can also be effective in dealing with anxiety, panic attacks, stage fright, and fears (such as the fear of flying). Taking a restorative pause to focus on your breathing can also be a valuable anger-management tool.

For information on another type of relaxation technique, please read the article Meditation May Reduce Stress and Improve Health.


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