In an already high-stress year, this week just might take the top spot. There’s no easy way to calm down fast, but taking time to do some guided breathing—with the help of handy breathing videos—might help you feel a little better.
For many of us, the months leading up to Election Day have been a source of long-term, slow-burning stress, Christiane Brems, Ph.D., a registered yoga teacher, clinical professor, and director of YogaX at Stanford Psychiatry, tells SELF. “This type of stress—sustained and low grade—can wreak havoc on our nervous system,” she says.
When your body is stressed, it releases the stress hormones adrenaline and cortisol, kicking off your fight-flight-freeze response, Manuela Kogon, M.D., clinical associate professor at the Stanford Center for Integrative Medicine, tells SELF. But purposeful breathing can trigger your parasympathetic system, or the part of your autonomic nervous system that opposes the fight-flight-freeze response. As a result, it may help you feel rested and relaxed.
“Breathing is so powerful because unlike so many things in life, it’s something we have control over,” Rachel Allyn, Ph.D., a psychologist and yoga teacher based in Minneapolis, tells SELF. “By improving the way you breathe, you can shift your nervous system from the stress-response mode to a state of regulation and relaxation.”
And the good news is you don’t need to do an extensive breathing routine to get the benefits—and you don’t need to do them for a prolonged amount of time, either.
In fact, you can feel calming benefits in as little as 30 seconds of purposeful breathing exercises, Catherine Cook-Cottone, Ph.D. a licensed psychologist and registered yoga instructor based in Buffalo, New York, tells SELF. “It doesn’t need to be complicated,” she says. “Orienting back to your own breath—just noticing it—is a powerful first step.”
For a little more structure, check out these 17 expert-approved breathing videos to help you get started.
1. Focus Meditation with Manoj Dias
Length: 9 minutes
What to expect: This guided meditation cultivates focus and stability through concentration and mindfulness with breathing.
“I like this simple technique of paying attention to the gap between your exhale and inhale. It is so calming and the time floats by, leaving you feeling clear and aware when complete.” —Diane Malaspina, Ph.D, psychologist, yoga teacher, and therapeutic specialist in Virginia Beach, Virginia
Try the breathing routine.
2. Lululemon Breathe in Calm with Gabby Bernstein
Length: 3 minutes
What to expect: Gabby Bernstein, New York Times best-selling author and kundalini yoga and meditation teacher, shares a calming five-count breathing technique.
“This three-minute video is great for a technique called box breath, where we silently count to five on the inhale, hold the inhale to a count of five, exhale for five, and hold our breath for a count of five (before the next inhale to a count of five). Beyond the immediate sense of calm it brings, the box breath is easy to do anywhere and enhances feelings of relaxation and peace.” —Diane Malaspina
Try the breathing routine.
3. The First 4 Exercises of Mindful Breathing with Thich Nhat Hanh
Length: 4 minutes
What to expect: Thich Nhat Hanh guides you through the first exercises of mindful breathing, from following the in breath and out breath all the way through to generating the energy of mindfulness by being with your body.
“I love this video because Thich Nhat Nahn, one of the most profound teachers, makes the breathing exercises simple and approachable. With these practices, we find the magic in the simple act of breathing.” —Laurasia Mattingly, meditation and mindfulness teacher and founder of the Sit Society in Los Angeles