Breathing Exercise: Five Minutes to Zen

by in Stress May 8, 2008

zen.jpgQuestion: What is the one stress management tool you ALWAYS have with you everywhere you go?

Answer: Breathing!

Deep breathing is the simplest way to calm ourselves down.

I work hard to teach my patients to immediately check in with their breathing when they are feeling stressed.

First, sit comfortably in a chair and make sure both feet are on the ground. Imagine that your feet are deeply “rooted” in the ground. Now check in with your breathing…

Breathe in deeply and slowly through your nose all the way in to your belly so that it visibly rises, and then exhale slowly and noisily out your open mouth. Do this five times. Identify the region that feels the most stressed in your body and place your hand on that area. Most people report tightness in their chest or abdomen, or both when they are feeling extremely anxious.

If you are tight in both then place your dominant hand on the area that is the most tight. For your chest place one hand horizontally right below your collar bone, for tightness in your belly, place the center of your palm over your belly button, or in the exact place that is tight. Breathe in to those areas as you visualize all the “stuck energy” and stress loosening up and flowing out of your body with your breath.

Sit quietly and breathe at least five minutes every time you find yourself feeling anxious or ungrounded. A few minutes to collect yourself will save you time in your day as you approach your stressful tasks feeling centered and grounded. You can also easily use this activity to help you fall asleep at night if stress is what is keeping you awake.

Remember that practicing stress management is akin to developing physical fitness. The more stressed or “out of shape” you are the tougher it will be to get in to the zone. However, the more you condition yourself the more “fit” you will quickly become. Getting in to a state of zen initially may take more than five minutes. But, the more you continue to practice this exercise, the more you will develop the skill of just slipping quickly in to a stress free state.

Personally after practicing this exercise for five years, I can usually quickly calm myself down just by lightly resting my hand below my collar bone. There is something very simple and soothing about the gesture of self care that seems to calm me right down.

~Dr. Nicole Sundene

  1. I LOVE this article! I try to do this kind of breating all the time, but need a reminder every once in a while of how important it is to do it consistently!

    When I worked the most stressful job I can remember, I used to go out to my car where it was quiet and warm and do these breathing exercises. It definitely helped me to enter back into the building where I would be faced again with the stress, but I was more ready for it!
    Doc KC

  2. Yes, breathing in the car is the perfect thing to do when you are bored or stuck in traffic! We all need to be reminded, even me 😀

  3. Doc, I’m liking this site more and more. Sometimes, I forget to breathe. Thanks for the reminder – Nards

  4. Breathing is a wonderful stress-reliever. You know what the other stress-reliever you carry with you where ever you go? Your smile. Try smiling when you feel stress or anxiety approaching. The beauty about a smile is that is impossible to think and feel negatively when you are smiling – go ahead – try it – I dare you. The breathing and the smiling will help you to combat those negative feelings – together – you can become all the more positive! And feel all the better. Great stuff Nicole…


  5. Stress management is about the easiest thing I ever have to deal with if the will is there to change it, but conversations usually go like this:

    Me: Would you be prepared to work less
    Client: No, but I’ll do anything else

    Me: What about cutting down on alcohol?
    Clent: Well not that, but anything else though.

    Me: Quit smoking
    Client: Nope

    Me: How about joining a gym.
    Client: I don’t think so.

    Me: Reducing caffeine intake
    Client: I need that to get me through the day

    Me: Taking up meditation
    Client: Do I look like a tree-hugger

    Me: What WILL you do?
    Client: Just name it!

    If the will is there it’s easy, it’s just that the will just aint there very often.

  6. Thanks for reminding me to breath Doc!! I forget to at times and often struggle to get my breaths out! I become aware of it and then start breathing deeply and slowly to come back down to a regular rhythm. Great post 🙂

  7. This is a great way to not only relieve stress, but to bring me back to consciousness – in the now. Thanks for the reminder of this simple exercise. I recently found a method called TAT that I’m loving. It really helps me to relieve stress.

  8. Hi,

    Well…what about if those who annoy us, stopped breathing ? 🙂
    Now seriously, I just found your blog and is really interesting.
    I’m going to return for sure since I like to use natural things instead of medicins. I believe that eating well is half way to a healthy life.
    And also sleeping well, of course.

    Kind regards,


  9. Hi Nards- we all need to remind ourselves to breathe. I notice when I get stressed I hold my breath. Breathing is so fundamentally important, I will be blogging about it often. 😀

  10. Thanks Benny- smiling right back atcha! What a great reminder. Your site is full of so many wonderful tips, I am going to write an article including your concentration tips for a future ADHD post. Keep up the great work. I love Ya-ttitude!!

  11. Hi Tim- I know what you mean it can be so frustrating, that is why I resorted to blogging so I can throw all my tips out there and people can grab on to that which works for them, or at the very least be forced to read about how the ravages of stress are ruining their lives!

    Most people are so stuck in constant stress and rushing around that they can’t even begin to see how negatively it is impacting their well being. All we can do as health coaches is just keep trying though. Five minutes here and five minutes there of breathing is usually what I start most people on.

  12. Hi Ange- I am guilty of the same exact problem. So am working on it, I have tried a lot of different breathing techniques and try to present the ones that are the easiest to learn and implement to my readers, so stay tuned, I will be writing about breathing at least once a week now!

  13. Hi Jennifer- yes many of us are not part of present conscious reality and breathing and paying attention to our bodies will certainly help us get in to the moment much better. What is TAT? You should write about it on your wonderful new site so I can learn. Thanks!

  14. Hi Jose! Thanks for the laugh (hoping that was just a joke…) anyways, I don’t have an answer for dealing with annoying people other than just breathing through it and then avoiding them like the plague!

    Glad you like the site, I am teaching alternative medicine here and diet, sleep, and stress are going to be the crux of it. Thanks for stopping by!!!

  15. Thanks for that wonderful article , most of the people cannot handle stress, and I am one of them, i do deep breeding but now that I know there are other way of releasing stress.

  16. i often forget to breathe

    thus the frequent black outs ….

    great blog!

  17. Breathing is essential to life and essential to stress relief too! I notice a definite difference in my day when I apply these techniques!
    .-= Kim@How To Manage Stress´s last blog ..How’s This For A Stress Relieving Bath?! =-.

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