respiration et stress data-src=

6 min

Stress and Breathing: How to Breathe Better in Everyday Life?

In the delicate balance of modern life, where pressure seems omnipresent, the relationship between stress and breathing is crucial. For those of us constantly seeking natural ways to improve our well-being, understanding this interaction is simply essential.

That's what we're going to see here: how breathing can be our ally in managing stress, and how this intimate connection offers promising avenues for mentally "letting go".

Get ready to chase away the anxieties with a good, deep breath! 🌬


How does our breathing work?

Behind this seemingly simple question lies more subtleties than just "we inhale and then exhale, easy!" There's a bit more behind this fascinating mechanism.

Yes, breathing divides into two main phases: inhalation and exhalation.

During inhalation (phase one), the intercostal muscles and the diaphragm contract, which increases the thoracic volume and allows air to enter the lungs. These fill with oxygen, essential for energy production in our cells. Exhalation (phase two) occurs when the muscles relax, expelling carbon dioxide, a waste product of metabolism, from the lungs.

It is the autonomic nervous system, composed of the sympathetic and parasympathetic systems, that involuntarily regulates breathing. In situations of stress, the sympathetic system is activated, causing rapid and shallow breathing. Conversely, the parasympathetic system promotes slow and deep breathing, which induces a sense of calm and relaxation! Thus, stress and breathing go hand in hand: one can be a direct consequence of the other.

In this system, let's note the importance of the diaphragm, a key muscle of breathing. Specifically, when we inhale, the diaphragm descends and allows a certain volume of air to be inhaled. Working on breathing exercises means working the diaphragm, a muscle like any other, thereby improving breathing – more on this later.

Stress: Mechanism, Role, and Consequences

You probably know what stress is (who hasn't felt it?), but maybe not how it works. Let's take a closer look! 🧐

Stress is a natural and physiological reaction of the body to a situation perceived as a threat, whether real or imagined. It's a natural adaptive response that mobilizes the body to face a difficult situation. Unfortunately, it can also become chronic or excessive, and then have detrimental consequences on mental and physical well-being.

The stress process starts in the brain, where the cerebral cortex, the seat of conscious thought, assesses the situation and transmits it to the amygdala, a region involved in managing emotions, including fear. The amygdala then triggers a chain reaction involving the autonomic nervous system (again!) and the release of hormones, particularly cortisol and adrenaline. These chemicals prepare the body to react quickly, by accelerating the heart rate, increasing blood pressure, and releasing energy reserves.

In short, stress is primarily a normal reaction that prepares the body for a potential "danger." In this sense, it's even quite positive, as it allows for better anticipation of certain events. However, prolonged exposure to stressful situations can lead to constant activation of the stress response system, which brings negative long-term effects.

Physically, chronic stress contributes to problems such as sleep difficulties, intestinal discomfort, or concentration difficulties. Moreover, stress has implications on the immune system, especially related to fatigue caused by lack of sleep, which can make the body more vulnerable to external aggressions.

In sum, stress is, in a way, a necessary evil. But if you're too susceptible to it, it can become harmful: the key is not to succumb to it problematically.

We recommend

best ashwagandha

Organic Ashwagandha

Formula based on pure Ashwagandha Bio root extract patented KSM-66®.

  • ✅ Patented KSM-66®
  • ✅ 500 mg of ashwagandha per capsule
  • ✅ 5% withanolides
  • ✅ Certified Organic by Ecocert
See the product

Stress and Breathing: What are the links between the two?

We've already touched on it a bit: stress, a natural body reaction to upcoming challenges, often triggers changes in our way of breathing.

In a situation of stress, the sympathetic nervous system, known as the "fight or flight" mode, is activated. It triggers a series of physiological responses, including rapid and shallow breathing. This rapid breathing aims to increase the amount of oxygen in the blood to prepare the body to react quickly.

Meanwhile, breathing plays a crucial role in regulating the autonomic nervous system, responsible for the stress response. Conscious breathing techniques, such as deep abdominal breathing, can influence the parasympathetic nervous system, often called the "rest and digest" mode - the name speaks for itself!

By promoting slow and deep breathing, we stimulate the parasympathetic system, which has a calming effect on the body and mind. It's not for nothing that stressed people are often advised to take a moment to breathe, literally: if stress generates jerky breathing, working on one's breathing, conversely, reduces stress.

Thus, it's a two-way relationship! 🔁

Some Breathing Techniques to Reduce Stress

Now that we know why stress and breathing are intertwined, let's look in more detail at how to work on our breathing to become more serene. Here are some simple and effective methods to use breathing as a stress management tool:

1. Deep abdominal breathing: by focusing on the expansion of the diaphragm rather than superficial thoracic breathing, deep abdominal breathing promotes the activation of the parasympathetic system. First, exhale fully to evacuate all the air from your lungs, then focus on your abdomen. Take slow and deep breaths, inflating it on the inhale and retracting on the exhale. Repeat this several times.

2. Heart coherence: this technique synchronizes breathing with the heart rate, generally by breathing at six cycles per minute. Indeed, this creates a balance in the autonomic nervous system, which promotes emotional stability. Practice abdominal breathing by inhaling for five seconds and exhaling for five seconds. Ideally, do this for 3 to 5 minutes. Well-being guaranteed!

3. Alternate nostril breathing (or Nadi Shodhana): derived from yoga, this method involves alternating breathing through one nostril and then the other. It balances the brain hemispheres and calms the nervous system.

4. Square breathing: structured in equal cycles of inhalation, retention, exhalation, and retention again, square breathing encourages concentration and relaxation. For example, inhale for four seconds, hold your breath for four seconds, exhale for four seconds, and hold again for four seconds.

5. The 4-7-8 breathing: this simple technique involves inhaling for four seconds, holding the breath for seven seconds, then exhaling for eight seconds. It promotes relaxation and can be repeated several times.

You got it: the essence of these techniques lies in breathing awareness, which becomes an anchor to the present time and inner calm. If you integrate these practices into your daily routine, whether upon waking, during a lunch break, or before bedtime (whenever), you will cultivate a proactive approach to stress management and improve your overall quality of life! 🌞

Going Further to Limit Stress

Beyond breathing techniques, fighting stress can be deepened by incorporating other dimensions of well-being into your daily routine. To start, regular physical exercise is a powerful way to reduce stress by releasing endorphins, the "happiness hormones". Whether through regular walking (no need to overdo it!), a yoga session, or any sports activity, physical activity contributes to balancing the body and mind, thus limiting anxiety.

The practice of mindfulness, or meditation, is another effective approach. By focusing on the present moment, meditation helps to calm the mind and alleviate stressful thoughts. Stress and breathing are often at the heart of meditative practice, which is particularly suited in this context.

Sleep quality also plays a role in stress management. To avoid sleepless nights linked to stress, establish a regular sleep routine, create a conducive rest environment, and avoid electronic stimuli before sleeping. 😴

Diet can also directly influence our stress level. Opt for a balanced diet, rich in nutrients, and favor foods high in good fats, which promote healthy brain function. Dark chocolate, for example, will comfort you, especially with its rich magnesium content.

Moreover, if you need a little boost to feel good, know that dietary supplements can help you, like magnesium, which contributes to normal functioning of the nervous system and psychological functions, or ashwagandha, which notably promotes emotional balance thanks to its adaptogenic properties.

Finally, cultivating positive social relationships and maintaining social connections provides essential mental support. Share your concerns with loved ones, seek support from friends or your family: nothing like it to, if not totally destroy stress, at least forget it for a moment of relaxation!

Ending Stress

You now know more about the mechanisms of stress, and the relationship between stress and breathing. We hope that by understanding the functioning of these interactions better, and by establishing good habits, you will quickly find serenity and peace of mind 🙂.

Stress is not inevitable, so don't let it spoil your life.


Co-founder of NOVOMA

Passionate and expert in micro-nutrition, Lucas founded Novoma in 2012. With conviction, he develops dietary supplements with effective active ingredients, carefully chosen and 100% clean, to best meet the body's needs.

Share this article

Related to the article

Recommended products

Continue reading


Which anti-stress food should you choose to combat stress?

Read more

5 min


6 tips to escape stress-related insomnia

Read more

7 min


How not to stress about going back to school: our advice

Read more

5 min