Breathe! to calm down – breathing exercises for shallow breathing and fatigue

Breathing exercises to stop shallow breathing for chronic fatigue, adrenal fatigue and burnout

Let’s talk about breathing. We never had to learn how to breathe. We always knew exactly how to do it from the very moment we were born and never had to question it. Until we grew up. We often hear the reminders from doctors, movement coaches, meditation facilitators: “Breathe deeply”, “Don’t forget to breathe”, “Don’t hold your breath”.

What happened to our breathing pattern?

As a reaction to our environment and daily stress, we develop something called shallow or chest breathing. During shallow breathing, we draw a minimum amount of air into the lungs through the chest without fully engaging the diaphragm. This type of breathing is very common in everyone who is under pressure or stress, but it can develop into a habit that leads to further tension and anxiety creating a vicious circle when our sympathetic nervous system is aroused and the ‘fight or flight’ response is activated.

In people with adrenal fatigue and chronic fatigue syndrome, symptoms, such as lack of energy, mental fog, dizziness, irritability and stiffened muscles are closely linked to shallow breathing (you can read more about it here).

There are many breathing techniques, that can help you readjust your nervous system cycle and improve your overall mental and physical state.

Here are 2 of my favourites:

Deep abdominal or diaphragmatic breathing promotes relaxation, regulation of the autonomous nervous system, a release of toxins and stimulates inner organs (by directing your breath to the lower back, you can also stimulate your kidneys and adrenals which are often depleted due to chronic stress).

  • Sit in a relaxed and comfortable position and start by breathing smoothly through your nose, don’t hold your breath in between;
  • Place one hand on your chest, another one on your belly;
  • Breath in through the nose expanding your belly and the whole abdominal area including the lower back. Make sure that the chest doesn’t rise;
  • On an outbreath let the air out through the mouth drawing the belly in.

If you feel like you would like to experiment, you can add movement of the spine in sync with your breathing – on the inbreath expand your belly keeping your back straight, on the outbreath round your back slightly.

The 4-7-8 breathing – the idea is that your exhale is twice as long as your inhale which ‘tricks’ your body into ‘thinking’ that it’s safe. It’s really effective when dealing with anxiety, racing thoughts and shortness of breath when you’re not exhaling fully.

  • Sit or lie down comfortably;
  • Exhale completely through your mouth;
  • Close your mouth and inhale through your nose for a count of four;
  • Hold your breath for a count of seven;
  • Exhale completely through your mouth to a count of eight.

For more breathing exercises to fight stress, anxiety and fatigue, check this Pranayama series, or if you’d like to ground yourself and enhance energy through gentle movement along with deep abdominal breathing, try our Therapeutic Qigong sequence from Qigong 4 Fatigue video series.


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