September 18


This Deep Breathing Calms Chronic Stress

By Sue Ingebretson

September 18, 2018

anxiety, blood pressure, calms, chronic, chronic illness, deep breathing, digestion, fibromyalgia, habit, heart rate, patience, practice, relaxation, Thoughts

Deep Breathing is in short supply in the fibromyalgia and chronic illness world. In fact, a stressed-out person automatically holds his/her breath. And, then lets it out in brief bursts.

Holding your breath, and short, shallow breathing are your body’s natural responses to stress.

Breathing Reflex

Have you ever walked face-first into a web while distracted thinking of something else? Blech!

I can logically assume you did three things.

  • You probably scrunched up your face and spit a lot.
  • You probably waved your arms wildly in front of you and did a jerky Elaine Benes dance (that you hope no one witnessed).
  • You probably held your breath the entire time.

The body’s natural response to surprise or being startled is to hold your breath.

When chronic stress is at play, the body becomes habituated to holding your breath and then taking short, shallow breaths. Most chronic illness peeps aren’t even aware that this is happening. 

Taking deep, intentional breaths 

is an important departure from this habit.

Deep Breathing as a Calming Habit

Deep breathing practices offer the chronic illness body the fastest way to invite the relaxation response.

Inhaling deeply tells the body that the crisis is over. It’s a critical reminder to the brain to stop sending out the signals of stress. Deep breathing can change heart rate, blood pressure, digestive efficiency, anxious thoughts and so much more. 

What Deep Breathing Practices Work Fast?

Deep breathing is so simple, it’s easy to overlook how effective it can be.

What’s difficult about breathing in deeply and letting it out?


Nothing that is, other than remembering to do it.

  • ONE: So, here’s your first assignment – at regular intervals throughout the day, say at 11 minutes past each hour – remember to breathe in deeply through the nose, and exhale through the mouth at least three times. Breathe deeply into your belly. Breathe out slowly and try to make your out-breath longer than the in.

This is a basic deep breathing recipe and, hopefully, you’ll you’ll remember to do it at least several times throughout the day. Set a timer, write yourself, a note, or do it when your Fitbit tells you to “stroll.”

Whatever it takes.

  • TWO: As you get better at the remembering part, you may wish to try this easy 4-7-8 breathing practice.

When you notice stress taking hold, or the fact that you’re holding your breath, inhale deeply to the count of 4. Then hold your breath to the count of 7, and then release it slowly through your mouth to the count of 8.

All you need to remember are the numbers 4, 7, and 8. Do this about three times in succession.

Of course, if you feel dizzy at any time, go back to breathing normally and try again later. Be patient with your progress. It may take some time to build up a tolerance if you’re not used to oxygenating your body.

Want to try a few more deep breathing exercises? Check out this article sharing a few more practices to sample. Or, if you’d like to follow a simple video and not have to think at all, this 5-Minute practice is your ticket to the crossroads of CALM and AHHH.

If you haven’t already, be sure to check out this first article in this series on the Basics of Relaxation.

And, don’t forget to see how relaxation practices fit into the overall Stress Strategies for Fibromyalgia HERE.

What are your favorite deep breathing practices, and when do you do them? How do you remember? Share your tips below!

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"True Healing requires a combination of healthy nutrition, healthy body movements, and emotional wellness. This is what I call the Restoration Trio" ~ Sue Ingebretson