Breathing exercises can be one of the most useful resources to tap into to help decrease stress and anxiety. We already take over 20,000 breaths a day, and it’s something you can do anywhere at any time. Learning how to become conscious of and control your breathing is a truly beneficial skill to improve your physical and mental health.

In our current society much of our stress is internally perpetuated, as well as chronic, meaning that this abnormal state in our body persists, instead of returning to optimal function or homeostasis. Reduced digestion, increased blood sugar and blood pressure can lead to weight gain and increased risk of serious chronic conditions. Using breathing techniques can actually help turn off the parasympathetic nervous system and the fight or flight response, reducing respiration rate, heart rate and blood pressure and inducing a state of calm.

Breath counting is a deceptively simple technique that revolves around using your breath to focus on the present. After settling into a comfortable position, gently close your eyes and focus on slow, deep breaths. Count on each exhalation up to 5, and then start back down at 1. If you find yourself counting up higher, allow yourself to acknowledge where your mind has wandered and then gently guide yourself back to the present and your breath.