I would guess that the most popularly used ‘breathing tool’ is the one that promotes relaxation. Promoting relaxation and reducing stress are two sides of the same coin. Yogis say that when we own our breath, it becomes difficult to steal our peace. Having an effective breathing tool for de-stressing is an important part of breath ownership.

Stress reaction

I feel stressed when experiencing demanding circumstances that my brain can’t process. Stress comes in varying intensities. Low-intensity stress leaves me in a state of alertness and is not necessarily negative. However, as stress intensity increases, it may become more difficult for me to manage. Experiencing prolonged high-intensity stress may trigger unmanageable emotions.

Different forms of stress have been following us since we lived in caves. For many years it did not have the name ‘stress,’ but it was indeed there. The feeling of stress was meant to prepare the body for physical exertion.

It’s common for people living in modern societies to drown themselves in obligations and not have enough resources to process the tasks they undertake. These people may set unrealistic goals, trying to squeeze out of life more than they can handle. A day of 24 hours is not enough and is stretched, pulled, and distorted, to make ends meet. People unconsciously use their stress response to push their nervous system beyond its max capacity. To cope with the overload of tasks, we start to attach false threat levels to situations that are not really dangerous. In this way, we manage to push ourselves to the limit. For example, we may feel that our existence is compromised if we are late for a meeting at work. Sadly, this ‘trick’ of attaching false values has a price. When our nervous system is constantly on high alert, sending ‘wolf-wolf’ signals of emergency, we become exhausted and left with dwindled resources once we encounter a real threat.

The reaction to stressful situations is different from person to person. Stress manifestations may include sweating, dilated pupils, increased blood pressure, and intense breathing.

In modern societies, exposure to actual life-threatening situations is minimal. People in organized communities are relatively secure. ‘Frequent flyers’ of Fight or Flight state have constant, elevated levels of stress hormones in their bloodstream long after perceived threats have passed. Stress can get out of control and become chronic. The inability to shift out of the Fight or Flight state may be destructive. Constant stress may trigger countless health issues and even cause changes in a person’s mental structure.

Handling stress

Life brings us to stressful situations; that is part of what life is all about. Being able to ‘take some punches’ in life is an acquirable skill, though. In most cases, it’s not the challenging situations that really stress us but rather our reaction to them. We have both inward and outward reactions when we are stressed.

Stress is a strong distraction. One of the biggest challenges in implementing a relaxing breathing tool is remembering to use it on time, despite the strong distraction. Making an exaggerated effort towards relaxation or overusing a breathing tool during a stressful situation may lead to more stress.

In everyday life, stress comes in different intensities. Therefore, a good approach is to start implementing a relevant breathing tool during minor irritations and gradually move on to more explosive situations.

Carbon dioxide back-feeding

In the old days, flight attendants on commercial airlines had a procedure for dealing with a passenger who got into a panic attack on a plane. As ‘first aid,’ they instructed the panicking passenger to breathe into the standard paper bag placed in the seat pocket in front.

When people panic, they tend to over-breathe, clearing Carbon-diOxide from their bloodstream. The lower levels of Carbon-diOxide cause the blood vessels to constrict, intensifying panic.

Breathing into a paper bag increases the level of Carbon-diOxide. As a result, blood vessels dilate, which in turn induces relaxation.

Using Carbon-diOxide feedback without fully understanding the reason for the over-breathing may be hazardous. For example, for a person who has asthma, Carbon-diOxide back-feeding may be harmful. As a result, airlines abandoned this procedure in favor of instructing passengers in a state of panic to inhale normally and make a long-slow exhale.

An alternative to back-feeding Carbon-diOxide using a paper bag is cupping the palms of the hands together, creating a closed space, and breathing into the cupped palms.

Relaxing breathing actions

Having a known breathing procedure in times of stress allows me to relax into the familiar. By prolonging my exhale, I can reduce my heartbeat, which in many cases, contributes to relaxation. Furthermore, slowing down my breathing increases Carbon-diOxide levels in my bloodstream, which is relaxing. The relaxing feeling comes from blood-vessels dilation, causing a drop in my blood pressure. Using my diaphragm in an extended amplitude contributes positively to relaxation. The back-and-forth diaphragm movements sends relaxing feedback signals to my ‘breathing app.’

Generally, finding a personal breathing sequence that induces calm requires adjusting breathing: intensity, rate, ratio, sound generation, and facial expressions, all according to our breathing identity.

Coupling Smiles

When confronting momentary stress, the combined impact of calming breathing practice, and a matching facial expression, may do wonders. Breathing and mimicking are synergetic.

I exercise SmileBreathing for ‘mood immunization,’ but similar principles may help during immediate stressful situations. I synchronize my smiles to the rhythm of my breathing. It’s an excellent addition to my relaxing tool.

Air shortage

Those with no breathing problems take it for granted. Not only is breathing taken for granted, but almost all we have, once it’s ours, we are convinced that this is the way it was meant to be and will be. Not being able to draw air is hugely stressful; nothing else matters when we can’t breathe freely!

There are quite a few medical conditions that cause the inability to draw air freely. An obstruction in the airways or a problem in the lungs themselves may prevent the needed gas exchange. Pneumonia, asthma, and covid19 are examples of medical conditions that can cause the feeling of suffocation. The more obstructed we are, the more stressed, and it feeds back. The more stress, the more obstructed we get. It becomes a vicious spiral.

Asthma relief

When experiencing an asthma attack, the airways usually inflame and become swollen. As a protective measure, the muscles around the airways contract causing a narrowing in the windpipe. Besides that, extra mucus tends to build up in the lungs, which causes coughing and further breathing obstructions.

The exact triggers of asthma are not fully understood. For some people, the trigger is inhaling particular allergens. For others, stressing thoughts and negative emotions are enough to get them into an attack. The inability to breathe freely is stressful, whatever the reason.

A relaxing breathing sequence can help a lot in these cases, but it’s very challenging to implement when experiencing acute air shortage. Using a reliever inhaler helps open the airways and allows less restricted breathing. But using an inhaler repeatedly has negative side effects. After an initial obstruction reduction with an inhaler relaxing breathing sequences may be effective in preventing the excessive use of an inhaler.


Tool for relaxing when experiencing air shortage }

  • If the situation allows it, I close my eyes.
  • I breathe through my nose 3-part breathing on a 2-beat.
  • Inhale, reciting my Mantra ‘peace & quiet’ X 2
  • Exhale, reciting my Mantra ‘peace & quiet’ X 4
  • Add a very soft audible hiss on the exhale.
  • Add a short ‘confidence’ retention after the exhale.
  • Synchronize smiles on the inhale similarly to SmileBreathing.


Anxiety, depression, panic, and phobias

One of the main reasons for being stressed is reality, and an even greater reason for stress is being disconnected from reality. Having disproportional fears of an actual or perceived situation can be extremely stressful.

I’m an emotionally stable person, but when I swing into an emotional storm, I try and find a calm spot in the eye of the storm. Running away from it is hopeless. Breathing practices assist me in creating a space within me when I experience high levels of stress. It allows me to contain my fear instead of trying to escape or expel it.

Anxiety, phobia, panic, and depression often trigger emotions of fear that manifest as stress. Therefore, breathing tools that effectively reduce stress may help when facing the challenging emotion of fear.


Tool for relaxing when experiencing fear }

  • If the situation allows it, I keep my eyes open, looking at a single point.
  • I breathe through my nose diaphragmatically.
  • Inhale, reciting my Mantra ‘peace & quiet’ X 2
  • Add a retention after exhale. Mantra ‘relaaaaaax’
  • Exhale, reciting my Mantra ‘peace & quiet’ X 4
  • Add a very soft audible hiss on the exhale.
  • Synchronize smiles on the inhale similarly to SmileBreathing.

Anger and rage

When people feel misused, powerless, threatened, attacked, or frustrated, they often react with some form of anger. In more extreme situations, where feelings of anger are totally out of control, it becomes a rage.

Even though the triggers are common, the reaction is individual. Some people have a ‘longer fuse’ than others, and their response to anger is delayed or suppressed. However, for those having a short fuse, it takes a minor unpleasant incident, and they fly into a rage and go ballistic.

The feeling of anger is unpleasant; it can take over and become highly dominant. Furthermore, there is an accumulating effect, so the earlier anger is addressed, the easier it is to gain control of it.


Tool for relaxing when experiencing anger }

  • If the situation allows it, I keep my eyes closed.
  • Exclusive nose breathing.
  • Inhale, and synchronize smiles similar to the exercise SmileBreathing.
  • Exhale in steps similar to the exercise Dog barking.

Blood pressure regulation

When inhaling, my heart accelerates and beats faster. So it may seem that this would increase my blood pressure, but what happens is exactly the opposite; my blood pressure decreases when inhaling. The opposite occurs when I exhale. It’s because my heart pump has a pressure-equalizing feature.

As levels of Carbon-diOxide in my bloodstream increase, my blood vessels dilate, and my blood pressure drops. Increasing Carbon-diOxide in my bloodstream by slowing down my breathing is most efficient for reducing my blood pressure.

Using my nose and diaphragm when breathing further contributes to relaxation.


Tool for reducing blood pressure }

  • If the situation allows it, I keep my eyes closed.
  • Exclusive nose breathing.
  • I breathe similar to the exercises As if not breathing.
  • Inhale, reciting my MantraX2.
  • Exhale, reciting my MantraX4.
  • Synchronize smiles on the inhale similar to the exercises SmileBreathing.