Managing Stress Using Deep Breathing

This post, part of our special series on the Coronavirus outbreak, was written by Kate Endries, MSW, licensed social worker and BGCA Health & Wellness Director.

The new normal that the coronavirus has created in our lives can feel very scary. Unfortunately, we do not know what the future holds yet, and that can cause a lot of stress and worry for many of us. Deep breathing exercises are a quick and easy way to calm your mind and body if you feel yourself getting overwhelmed. Deep breathing can be used anywhere at any time to allow yourself to pause, focus on the present moment, and reset.

How does it work?

Practicing deep breathing in times of stress increases the flow of oxygen in your body, stimulates your parasympathetic nervous system, and focuses your attention away from your worries to your body and breath.

There are countless ways to practice deep breathing and you might find you like some more than others.  Examples are:

  • 4 Count Breathing: Slowly breathe in through your nose while silently counting to 4. Hold your breath for 4 seconds.  Slowly breathe out through your mouth while silently counting to 4.  Repeat as needed.
  • Abdominal Breathing: Place one hand on your chest and one hand on your belly. Breathe in slowly through your nose, feeling your abdomen rise and fill with air.  Slowly breathe out from your mouth, feeling it fall as the air escapes.
  • Alternate Nostril Breathing: Squeeze your left nostril and slowly breathe in. Breathe out using our right nostril only.  Squeeze your right nostril and slowly breathe in.  Breathe out using your left nostril only.  Repeat as needed.
  • Pursed Lip Breathing: Slowly inhale through your nose while keeping your mouth closed. Slowly exhale through closed, pursed lips as if you are trying to whistle or blow out candles.  Repeat as needed.
  • Finger Breathing: Use your pointer finger to trace around the edge of your opposite hand. Slowly breathe in as you trace up your fingers, and slowly breathe out as you trace down your fingers. Repeat as needed.
  • Square Breathing: Pretend to draw a square with your finger in the air or on a table. Breathing in slowly along one side, and then out slowly down another.  Repeat as needed.
  • 10 Count Breathing: Slowly breathe in through your nose, count 1. Slowly breathe out through your mouth, count 2.  Repeat this until you reach 10.

Take a moment of self-care by practicing one of my favorite deep breathing techniques:

4-7-8 Breathing

  1. Find somewhere comfortable to sit or lay down.
  2. Close your eyes if you are comfortable doing so.
  3. Rest your tongue behind your front teeth.
  4. Close your mouth and breathe in through your nose for 4 seconds.
  5. Keep your mouth closed and hold your breath for 7 seconds.
  6. Breathe out through your mouth with a WHOOSH sound for 8 seconds.
  7. Repeat three more times together.
  8. Check-in on how you are feeling.
  9. Repeat the breathing exercise if needed.

Deep breathing is just one of many coping strategies that people use to manage stress and anxiety, or to get through challenging situations. It is particularly useful as an in the moment response to stress because you don’t need any special equipment, and can do it anywhere. For more ideas on ways to manage your stress, check back in with the ClubX Blog often in the coming weeks.

If you find yourself or someone you know in need of additional support during this difficult time contact:

  • Comprehensive resource database that connects you to specialists in your area to find the services and support for your specific needs
  • SAMHSA’s Disaster Distress Helpline1-800-985-5990: 24/7, 365-day-a-year, national hotline dedicated to providing immediate crisis counseling for people who are experiencing emotional distress related to any natural or human-caused disaster
  • Crisis Text Linetext “club” to 741741: 24/7, 365 day-a-year, national text line dedicated to providing immediate crisis text support for people who are experiencing emotional distress
  • Mental Health America: Find services and support in your area, learn about more about mental health and wellness on their website.

Check back in with the ClubX Blog often for more ideas and resources on how to maintain your mental and emotional well-being during this challenging time.  Stay safe.  Wash your hands.  Take care of yourself.  We are in this together! 

Get the latest updates from BGCA at, find programming ideas at, like the BGCA Youth Development on Facebook for YD updates including video from Sarah, and join the brand new BGCA Youth Development Community also on Facebook to connect with other Club staff on programming through coronavirus.

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