My Grief Care

Breathwork for Grief

In stressful times, it’s common to hear people say “Just breathe!” Breathing is essential to our existence, but it’s not something we particularly think about. Breathing is actually a profoundly useful stress-reducing technique. Conscious breathing can teach the nervous system to shift from a state of “fight-or-flight” to one of “rest and digest.”

When we are stressed and upset, our bodies activate the fight-or-flight response. This is an unhealthy way to operate for prolonged periods because our heart rates and blood pressure rise while other systems, such as the digestive system, actually shut down to conserve energy.

Follow the instructions below to practice breathing techniques to reduce your stress: 

  1. Find a quiet place. Sit in a comfortable position or lie down and close your eyes.
  2. Take a long, deep breath. Breathe in through your nose, expanding your diaphragm, and then slowly release the air out of your mouth. Keep your breaths even and slow. If you are expanding your chest, you are not taking a good breath. To breathe into your diaphragm, lie on a flat surface with your hands on your abdomen so you can see and feel your diaphragm rising and falling.
  3. Let go of any thoughts that enter your mind. They can wait. Simply focus on the pattern of your breath.
  4. For five minutes, just breathe. At first, just breathing for even two minutes may seem like an eternity, but as you practice, and your mind is able to shift gears, you will find the time passes more easily and you become more relaxed.

If you have any difficulty calming your mind to focus on breathing, you may find sitting in nature an easier way to decompress. You could also use music, a sound machine, or a flickering candle flame to focus your attention. If you continue to find it tough to sit quietly and breathe, try a progressive muscle relaxation technique. You will still focus on your breathing, with eyes closed, but while sitting upright in a chair.

Concentrating on one muscle group at a time, starting with your feet and moving upward through all your muscles, contract each muscle group for five seconds and then release the contraction, imagining all the tension melting away onto the floor. This can help you recognize your areas of stress, and it feels great.

Here are some other links on grief, stress and breathing.

Managing Grief: 5 Ways Plus Breathwork to Get You Over The Hard Times

Breathing Lessons for Coping with Grief

Breathing Exercise for Grief & Stress

Grief and How We Breathe

Breathing Through Grief

3 Breathing Exercises for Stress