When life gets chaotic, how do you cope? One convenient, effective and free option is controlled breathing. Paying attention to your breath invokes the relaxation response, which can reduce stress, ease anxiety and promote clear thinking as well as slow down your heart rate and lower blood pressure.

Making breathing exercises part of your daily practice can help with long-term stress management. Dedicate at least 10 minutes each day to focused breathing, whether it’s when you wake up in the morning, during your lunch break or before bedtime. Find a place that’s comfortable and quiet, then begin one of the many techniques available.

Equal Breathing
Calm your nervous system and reduce stress by balancing your breath. Inhale through the nose as you count to four, then exhale through the nose for another four seconds. Continue the process for several minutes. As you progress in your practice, slowly increase to six or eight counts per breath.

Abdominal Breathing
This beginner technique, also known as deep breathing or diaphragmatic breathing, helps stave off worry and anxiety. Place one hand on your belly and one on your chest as you take a deep breath through your nose. As you inhale, engage your diaphragm, which is the dome-shaped muscle at the bottom of the rib cage. The hand on your belly will rise while the hand on your chest should remain still. Slowly exhale and let your stomach fall flat.

Alternate Nostril Breathing
When you need a boost of energy or help focusing, give this option a try. Place your right thumb on your right nostril and inhale deeply through the left side of your nose. Then close off the left nostril with your ring finger and exhale through the right nostril. Continue this pattern for several rounds.