If you react to stress with irritability, this simple breathing exercise can help you respond more calmly. “If you meet stress with aggression, you’re more critical and prone to losing your temper,” says David Simon, M.D.
To help calm down, Andrew Weil, M.D., offers a simple breathing technique. “One of the most effective tools we have to control stress is the breath—it’s always with us, but we just don’t think to use it,” he says. “I tell people to do my favorite simple technique. It takes almost no time, so there’s absolutely no excuse not to try it. Just a minute or two can be enormously helpful.”
1. Place the tip of your tongue against the ridge just behind your front teeth; keep it there throughout the exercise.
2. Exhale completely through mouth, breathing around the tongue and making a whooshing sound.
3. Close your mouth; inhale deeply and quietly through the nose to a count of four.
4. Hold the breath for a count of seven.
5. Exhale through your mouth to a count of eight, as described in step 2.
6. Repeat the entire exercise for a total of six total inhalations and exhalations.
“This technique induces a powerful state of relaxation, and it just gets better when you practice it over time,” Weil promises. “It’s a tonic for your nervous system and really helps you control negative emotions.”