I can remember, as a child, my mother telling me when I become upset to count to 10 out loud.  This can work with stress as well.  It is not actually the process of counting to 10 that does the trick.  It is not anything to do with numbers at all.  It is the process of tricking your brain to think about something else instead of the situation that you chose to become upset or stressed out about in the first place. 

Diaphragmatic Breathing

The first technique is similar to the counting to 10 concepts, but will work much better because it is more convoluted and specific to controlling the body and mind.  The technique I am going to give to you first is called diaphragmatic breathing.  The diaphragm is the muscle between the lung cavity and stomach cavity in the body.  It is important for contracting and expanding the area for air to go in and out of the lungs.  

There is some preliminary work, associated with diaphragmatic breathing; you need to do before you become stressed out.  The first thing I want you to do is get a stopwatch or a clock with a second hand.  I want you to become comfortable and just breathe normal.  I want you to time the seconds it takes for you to inhale for normal breathing.  Do this a few times and take the average for this.  Most people will inhale for about 4-6 seconds for a normal breath.  

After getting the average you will devise a little formula for the diaphragmatic breathing exercise.  It is based on a 2:3:2 ratio.  Let us assume you took 5 seconds for a normal breath.  You would breath in slowly for 10 seconds (the first ratio number 2 times your average breath of 5 seconds), hold the breath for 15 seconds (the second ratio number 3 times your average breath of 5 seconds), then exhale for 10 seconds (the third ratio number 2 times your average breath of 5 seconds).  You will do this exercise for 3 sets.  Do the sets back to back to back.  If you require more than the 3 sets to drop your level of stress some then by all means continue. 

Don’t just breathe in a little for the exercise of diaphragmatic breathing; breathe deep fromDiaphragmatic BreathingCredit: mattotto.org within the stomach.  This exercise has a few responses that are associated with it to help alleviate stress. The first being that it is getting your mind off the situation that is causing the stress.  The second thing, diaphragmatic breathing does is that it increase muscular awareness of your body and allows you to control your breathing.  At times when we are stressed out, our breathing becomes shallow and quickened.  The third benefit of diaphragmatic breathing is it increases the amount of oxygen being used by the brain.  This allows for clearer thinking and possible a better response to the stressful situation. 

Progressive Muscle Relaxation

The second exercise which you can choose if you have more time is called Progressive MuscleRelaxations.  This is a technique of tensing, holding, releasing each major muscle group in the entire body.  You will tense the muscle group and hold it for 5 seconds. Then you will release the muscle group and say “I have to let it all go.”  Then you will rest for 10-15 seconds and go to the next group of muscles.  Let’s try an example of how to do Progressive Muscle Relaxation.  You can do this in any order as long as you do all the major muscle groups.

Progressive Muscle RelaxationCredit: www.deltaholistics.com

First clench your fist very tightly.  Hold this for 5 seconds.  Release and tell yourself “I have to let it all go.”  Rest for about 10-15 seconds.  Next will be the forearms.  Bend your hands inwards as if you are trying to touch your bent fingers to your wrist.  Hold this for 5 seconds.  Release and tell yourself “I have to let it all go.”  Rest for the 10-15 seconds.  

Now I am just going to tell you which muscle groups to tense and release.  You know to count to 5 when tensing, release and tell yourself you have to let it all go, and to rest for 10-15 seconds in between.  

The next group of muscles is the upper arms.  Flex your bicep muscles as if you were doing arm curls, arms bent and hands coming near your face and body.  The forehead muscles are next.  Raise your eyebrows as if you are surprised or trying to open your eyes as wide as you can. 

Next, squeeze the eyes closed and wrinkling the muscles of the forehead.  Next clench your teeth together, but not to hard as to hurt the jaw muscles.  After you release, open your mouth very wide as if you were yawning or screaming very loud, without the sound. Stick your tongue out during this time.  Next, tense the muscle of your neck as if you were lifting something very heavy and trying to keep your head up. Take your both your shoulders and try to touch your ears by contracting your neck as if you were like a turtle going into his shell.  Now extend the neck and try to get the shoulders to get as far away from the ears as possible.  Tense the muscles of your chest next.  It helps if you put your arms to your sides and push into your chest while you are doing this. We are still on the chest but it want you to try to flex the muscle of your back and try to touch your shoulder blades together.  This actually is stretching your chest muscles.   

Next step is to breathe in as deep as you can and hold it.  This stretches the muscles of the chest as well as the diaphragm.  Next, force all the air out of your chest by breathing out fully. Now for the back.  Arch your back and hold it.   The next muscle group is the stomach.  Push your stomach out as far as it goes and hold it.  Next suck it in as far as it goes and hold it.  Now for the buttocks.  Flex the buttocks and hold.  Now you will take your thighs, one at a time, tense and release.  Next step is to take your toes and pull them back toward your upper body as if you were trying to make your toes touch your shins.  Then do the opposite.  Take your toes and extend them away from your upper body as if you were trying to get your heel to touch the back of your legs. 

Now that you have done all the major muscle groups of the body, evaluate if there is any tension left in any other the muscle groups.  If so, go back to those muscle groups and redo the tense, hold, and release for that muscle group.  That is Progressive Muscle Relaxation.  


Diaphragmatic Breathing and Progressive Muscle Relaxation are two great techniques to help reduce stress throughout the day.  They are quick and easy to do.  Reducing your stress is important for leading a healthy lifestyle and these two techniques can give you some control over your body.  If you can control the body reaction to stress, you can challenge the mental triggers to stress in a healthy manner. 

This article should not be a substitute for valuable information you could recieve from a mental health professional or medical doctor who knows you.  They know you better than I do sitting behind a computer many miles away.


Guided Imagery is another great way to reduce stress when you have more time to commit to it.   

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