Stress overload is a serious health problem in America today. The more "stressed out" we become, the more vulnerable we are to colds, flu, allergies, ulcers, high blood pressure and even heart attacks. Stress taxes our system and drains our energy, particularly targeting organs like the adrenal glands. Long-term stress invariably leads to severe fatigue from adrenal exhaustion, which often results in depression.

The good news is there is something you can do to combat stress. There are simple, yet effective breathing methods that can reduce the impact of stress. And the best part is they won’t cost you anything except a few minutes of your time.

The act of breathing is the most vital and basic function of the body, yet many of us pay little attention to our breath. Proper breathing is one of the most important things you can do to maintain your health. There is a right way and a wrong way to breathe. If you watch a baby breathe you will notice that their belly and torso expand and contract with their breath. This is healthy breathing! For most of us as we age our breathing shifts to the chest and becomes shallow and more rapid.

Many people have a tendency to breathe in the upper chest. This pattern is characterized by an absence of abdominal movement. This type of breathing is sometimes referred to as paradoxical or reverse breathing. The belly contracts or stays stationary during inhalation and expands during exhalation. This breathing is backwards and can lead to physical and psychological problems.
Reverse or paradoxical breathing can cause fatigue, irritation, tension in the shoulders and neck and less physical stability. In addition, psychological symptoms may include a sense of panic, doom, anxiety and loss of control. Learn to breathe correctly and start feeling better today!

Try This Simple Breathing Exercise

Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet on the floor. Place a folded towel or small pillow under your head. Take a moment to close your eyes, relax and begin to notice your breath. Is your breathing deep or shallow? Smooth or rough? Where do you feel your breath – chest, ribcage, belly, back, shoulders? Now, keep your attention on your breath as you exhale. Notice what happens. Can you extend your exhale slightly? Does this change the depth of your inhale? Avoid forcing your breath. You should not feel strain.

Next, place your hand on your belly. Breathe only through your nose as you do this exercise. Exhale and allow your belly to drop toward your back. Avoid strain. Once all of the air is out, relax your belly. Notice how the belly wants to expand as the air comes in. Let the belly blow up like a balloon as the air comes in. The belly should contract on the exhale and expand on the inhale. Continue breathing into the belly for a several rounds until it feels natural to expand the belly on the inhale and let it drop on the exhale. After several rounds, begin to make your exhale twice as long as your inhale. This will have a soothing and calming affect on your nervous system and help you to deeply relax.

If this is difficult for you, you’re not alone. Many of us are paradoxical breathers. With practice and time your bad breathing habits will be replaced by healthy breathing that will reduce stress and improve your health. A few minutes a day of practice will have a dramatic impact on your health. Try it and see!

Author's Bio: 

Bette Phelan is a Certified Hypnotherapist and Medical Hypnotherapist. She is also a Certified Kripalu Yoga Teacher with 30 years experience practicing, studying and teaching yoga.

Bette currently lives on the island of Hawaii where she teaches yoga classes and private yoga sessions at Hualalai Four Seasons Resort and in Waikoloa Village. Bette is the Founder and Co-Director of Tropical Tune-Ups, week-long yoga retreats for women.

For information on Bette's newest CD, "Guided Relaxation for Stress Reduction & Deep Sleep" visit: