Breathing and relaxation exercises

There are many breathing and relaxation exercises you can do to relieve stress and relax your body and mind.

Over time, these exercises may become something you do automatically if you’re tense or stressed. This can help you become more relaxed.

You will get the most benefit if you do breathing exercises regularly as part of your daily routine.

Setting up a breathing exercise

Breathing exercises only take a few minutes and you can do them anywhere. For example you can do them:

  • standing up
  • sitting in a chair that supports your back
  • lying on a bed
  • lying on a yoga mat on the floor

Before you begin

Before you begin a breathing exercise, you should:

  1. Make yourself as comfortable as possible.
  2. Loosen any clothes that restrict your breathing.
  3. If you’re lying down, place your arms a little bit away from your sides, with the palms up. Let your legs be straight, or bend your knees so your feet are flat on the floor.
  4. If you’re sitting, place your arms on the chair arms.
  5. Place both feet flat on the ground.
  6. Put your feet roughly hip-width apart.

Breathing exercise

This calming breathing exercise is for stress, anxiety and panic.

  1. Let your breath flow as deep down into your belly as is comfortable, without forcing it.
  2. Try breathing in through your nose and out through your mouth.
  3. Breathe in gently and regularly. Some people find it helpful to count steadily from 1 to 5. You may not be able to reach 5 at first.
  4. Then, without pausing or holding your breath, let it flow out gently. Count from 1 to 5 again, if you find this helpful.
  5. Keep doing this for 3 to 5 minutes.

Steps for Stress: Breathing and relaxation videos

You can do these exercises anywhere. They are designed to help you relax and stay calm, even when you’re feeling stressed. They include breathing and muscle relaxation techniques.

You don’t have to do these exercises in any order, and it’s okay to just do 1 or 2.

Steps for Stress: Breathing Exercise

Dr Alastair Dobbin and Deborah show a simple breathing exercise. This can help you to feel calm and relaxed.

You can do this exercise at anytime, including in bed to help you sleep, while watching TV or at work.

Practice for a couple of minutes twice a day to help feel the benefits.

Steps for Stress: Muscle relaxation exercise

Sheila Ross demonstrates a muscle relaxation exercise with Stewart.

Steps for Stress: Relaxation exercise

Dr Alastair Dobbin demonstrates a relaxation technique, with help from Lesley.

Steps for Stress: Breathing and relaxation playlist

The Steps for Stress breathing and relaxation playlist is an audio guide. It aims to help you control stress and understand where it comes from.

The first 2 tracks will help you understand more about how and why breathing exercises work. You should listen to them first so that you get the most out of the breathing exercises.

You can download this playlist to listen to it anywhere.

The audio is also available in BSL.

Steps to deal with stress leaflet

For more help dealing with stress, this leaflet is full of useful advice for reducing stress and staying relaxed.

Last updated:
13 June 2024

Search for Breathing and relaxation exercises for stress services