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Stress-Reducing Breathing Techniques

Apr 7th, 2020 by Martha D'Adamo

This article was written in April, 2020, not long after the Coronavirus pandemic struck the Northeast region of the United States. These gratitude and breathing practices can be helpful for any type of fear, anxiety or stress.

If you are like me (human), it’s hard to not feel buffeted, afraid and at times scared as we navigate the uncertainties that we are dealing with as we go through this unprecedented pandemic. I am finally getting my grounding, and I have three things that I am doing every day to support myself emotionally, and I wanted to share them with you. You may find them useful or not – take from this what you will.

Set Your Intentions

Each morning, before jumping into the busyness of the day, set aside 10 minutes to set an intention for the day. It could be as simple as: I will exercise today or I will reach out to someone I love who is alone during our isolation. If you can, try to shift your attitude from isolation to solitude or retreat, as this can help each of us use this time as enriching.

After you’ve written your intention, create the following lists:

  1. Three things you are grateful for
  2. Three things that make you smile
  3. Three people whom you love and send your thoughts

As the days go on, these might be the same things, or you may discover that you are able to find new things to be grateful for. Keep the lists, as in a few months, I think you’ll look back and be able to track your own internal processes. These will also serve as reminders, so that when we move forward from this time to the next, we’ll have all learned and grown from this, rather than back to business/life as usual.

Breathe. I am a huge fan☺ We breathe whether we think of it or not. Our bodies are so cool this way, and we take them for granted. While we live with the shadow of a virus that destroys our ability to breathe, let’s try to consciously breathe and mindfully allow our breath to support our nervous systems. I’d like to share two breathing exercises that can be very helpful and supportive during these challenging times.

Reset Breathing

Is a slower breathing method aimed at balancing the sympathetic nervous system, popularly known as your fight or flight response. The goal of Reset Breathing is to slow down the breath to about 4-6 cycles per minute. It can be nose only breathing or nose in mouth out (inhale through nose, exhale through mouth), engaging the abdominal muscles and the diaphragm, and feels like you are filling up with air from deep down in your belly, up through the midsection into the lungs, and then exhaling out and “down” as the breath leaves the body from the lungs, feeling the midsection and the belly.


  1. Sit or lie down, making sure that you are comfortable and feeling grounded.
  2. Take a few normal breaths as you adjust to this position.
  3. Inhale drawing the breath up as your belly expands, ribs expand, lungs expand to a count of 4; hold for a second or two.
  4. Exhale down to a count of 8.
  5. Pause.
  6. Repeat the breathing sequence, doing this for 10 cycles of breathing. You can do one set of 10 breaths, or if needed do 3 sets of 10.

When done, take a moment to “feel” how you feel. Hopefully more connected to yourself.

Alternate Nostril Breathing

Is a great way to balance your left brain/right brain. This should be practiced in a seated position while you get accustomed to it.


  1. Take a seat on a chair or the floor, root down and ground yourself.
  2. Place your left hand on your left leg, and bring your right hand up to your face, with your index and middle finger resting on the center of your forehead.
  3. Place your thumb on your right nostril to close it, and inhale deeply through your left nostril.
  4. Close the left nostril with your ring finger, and release your thumb and breathe out through the right nostril. (A good rule of thumb is to start with the left nostril in breath.)
  5. Breathe in through the right nostril, close it with the thumb, release the ring finger and breathe out through the left nostril.
  6. This sequence can be repeated for 10 cycles.
  7. When finished, place your right hand on your right thigh and take three normal breaths.

Alternate nostril breathing balances the autonomic nervous system, with the left nostril triggering the rest/relaxation response (parasympathetic) and the right nostril stimulating the fight/flight response (sympathetic nervous system). Keeping ourselves balanced is extremely beneficial during times of long and protracted stress, such as the world we are living in today.

Be safe, ground yourselves, support your immune system and above all be kind…to others as well as yourselves.


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