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Skidmore College
Counseling Center

How to do Deep Breathing

Anxiety often causes us to take quick, shallow breaths that make our chests rise and fall. Deep breathing or diaphragmatic breathing can help trigger a relaxation response for both our bodies and minds. Diaphragmatic breathing involves taking full, deep breaths from our abdomens rather than our chests. This skill, when practiced over time in stressful and non-stressful situations, can help us feel relaxed more quickly. It is easy to learn and no one around you will even know you’re doing it! Follow these steps to begin training yourself to breathe deeply:

  1. Either sit or lie down somewhere comfortable and begin paying attention to your breathing.
  2. Place one hand on your chest and one hand on your abdomen to see if you’re taking short, shallow breaths (with your chest rising and falling) or breathing more deeply (with your abdomen rising and falling).
  3. Begin to inhale slowly and deeply through your nose. Try to breathe deeply from the ‘bottom’ of your lungs. You should feel the hand on your abdomen rise as it expands with air—think of blowing up a beach ball.
  4. When taking a breath, pause for a moment, and then exhale as slowly and fully as you can and try to imagine any tension in your body draining away leaving you feeling limp like a rag doll.
  5. Take ten of these abdominal breaths. Sometimes it can help to count to four on each inhalation and exhalation to slow down your breathing i.e. Breath in 2…3…4 and hold and out 2…3…4.
  6. If you become dizzy or light-headed at any point, take a break and breathe normally before trying again.