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Quick & Calming Breathing Techniques

Updated: Mar 29

Our nervous system is in a continual state of internal contraction and expansion. In contraction, our body up-regulates into sympathetic response, with blood rushing to muscles to energize and mobilize us. Then, in expansion our body down-regulates into a parasympathetic, restful state. This is an automatic, harmonic balance within us.


This rhythm is also noted in our breathing. When we inhale our heart rate (HR) increases and we go into a sympathetic or more energized state. When we exhale, our HR decreases and we go into a more parasympathetic, restful state. This is why breathing is such a useful tool to rebalance our nervous system in times of stress when our breathing and heart rate become disregulated.  

Below are some quick breathing techniques you can use during times of stress to help you find your calm:

  • The 4-4 breath: Inhale for a count of 4--pause--exhale for 4--pause. Repeat.

  • The 4-8 breath/Elongating Breathing: Inhale for a count of 4--Exhale through your mouth or nose for a count of 6-8. This technique also helps to quickly decrease the heart rate when it's racing.

  • Using Your Hand with the Breath: Here we perform a breathing exercise using our hand for a visual focal point.

    • Using the 4-4 breath, trace up your thumb inhaling for a count of 4--trace down the other side of it as your exhale for a count of 4.

    • Repeat for each finger.

    • At your pinky, trace up your pinky as you inhale to 4--as you trace down the finger and palm of our hand, exhale for a 6-8 count. Notice what you feel.

  • Breathing Boards: To aid your focus, enjoy these breathing boards below that you can download and print to look at and trace with your finger while you breathe.

Breathing Fun
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