We often associate getting older with getting to live a more relaxed life. We refer to it as our “golden years” or “third act” when we can retire, winter in warmer climates, and have free time to pursue our hobbies and passions, but it is important to remember that seniors have stressors just like everyone else. And just like everyone else, seniors need ways to effectively manage stress for their own health and wellbeing. Join ameriCARE as we explore three breathing exercises to help the seniors in your life manage their stress effectively.
The Benefits of Breathing Exercises
Breathing exercises are a quick and easy way to reduce stress. They are incredibly convenient because they can be done anywhere, and they do not require any additional equipment or help. A breathing exercise is simply drawing your attention to your breath and focusing on ways to control your inhale/exhale pattern. Breathing exercises do not need to take a lot of your time and can be done on a schedule (when you wake up, on your daily walk, after dinner) or can be done during moments of intense stress or anxiety. We recommend practicing multiple times a day to ease stress and improve lung function. (Healthline)
How Does it Work?
By concentrating on your breathing pattern, you can ease your central nervous system and bring more oxygen to your blood, helping your body to relax. Breathing patterns like these help people break through their anxious or stressful thoughts by refocusing their attention on something they have direct control over. This not only helps for stress, but it also helps to make your lungs more efficient and can be very helpful for people with chronic lung diseases such as asthma and COPD. (American Lung Association)
The 4-7-8 Breathing Technique
People experiencing stress or worry can try the 4-7-8 breathing technique, also known as “relaxing breath.” This breathing exercise requires a person to focus on taking long, deep breaths, in and out. For this exercise, simply breathe in through your nose for four seconds, hold your breath for seven seconds, and exhale out of your mouth slowly for eight seconds. Repeat this pattern four times.
- empty the lungs of air
- breathe in quietly through the nose for 4 seconds
- hold the breath for a count of 7 seconds
- exhale forcefully through the mouth, pursing the lips and making a “whoosh” sound, for 8 seconds
- repeat the cycle up to 4 times
Pursed Lip Breathing
In moments of intense stress, anger, or anxiety, our breath quickens, reducing oxygen flow to our blood, putting extra strain on our bodies. Pursed lip breathing can help slow down your breathing pace by helping you apply deliberate effort for each breath. This breathing exercise is also beneficial during physical activity like bending, lifting, or climbing stairs. For this exercise, inhale through your nose for two seconds, pucker your lips like you’re about to whistle, and then exhale for four seconds
- Relax your neck and shoulders.
- Keeping your mouth closed, inhale slowly through your nose for 2 counts
- Pucker or purse your lips as though you were going to whistle
- Exhale slowly by blowing air through your pursed lips for a count of 4
Morning Breathing Practice
This breathing exercise is designed to help relieve the body of muscle tension. Unlike the 4-7-8 and pursed lip techniques, this breathing exercise does require some light stretching. This exercise is most beneficial if done right away in the morning, directly after you wake up. If done right away, this technique can help minimize muscle tension throughout the entire day! Simply bend forward at the waist, inhale slowly as you move back upward, and exhale as you bend back down.
- Stand up straight and bend forward at the waist. Bend knees slightly, letting your arms hang limply, close to the floor
- Inhale slowly and deeply and return to a standing position by slowly rolling your body up, lifting your head last
- Exhale slowly as you return to your original position
- Stretch your muscles a little, and repeat
While these breathing exercises are especially beneficial for seniors because they are easy to do even with limited mobility and resources, they are also a great practice for all people. Whether you’re in your “golden years” or you’re just starting out, we recommend adding a few breathing exercises in to your daily routine to help manage stress throughout the day. If you or a loved one is experiencing stress due to the effects of aging, injury recovery, or chronic illness and you need help managing it, reach out to ameriCARE to connect with one of our experienced and respectful in-home care providers today!