I’m a Type A East Coaster.

Thus, I am often stressed.

(Even though I’ve recently become a West Coast transplant, the laid-back California vibe has yet to rub off on me!)

But stress is no fun! And it wreaks havoc on your health.

In fact, I’ve been having a hormonal issue in recent months that I know is a direct result of my higher-than-average stress level. You see, the adrenal glands are raging kleptomaniacs/selfish brats that likes to steal all of the pregnenolone — a precursor hormone our bodies use to make both stress and sex hormones — away from the sex glands in order to make the primary stress hormone cortisol. This is aptly referred to as “pregnenolone steal” and happens because the body prioritizes the creation of stress hormones over the creation of sex hormones. Because which is more important when a lion is chasing you: “fight-or-flight” or a normal period? Even though this is very likely NOT the cause of our stress, that’s how our bodies perceive it.

So I’ve been employing a lot of stress reduction techniques lately.

I’ve been practicing a restorative yoga sequence at home, using adaptogenic herbs and teas, diffusing lavender essential oil frequently (especially to help me stay asleep through the night, which can be difficult if your prolonged stress has caused adrenal fatigue), and doing positive thinking exercises both alone and with my husband (basically we just talk about the good things that happened that day and things we’re grateful for before we go to bed).

One of my favorite stress reduction techniques is so simple and can be done anywhere: alternate nostril breathing.

I’ve done it in the car, on a bus, in an airplane, in a movie theater, in meetings, on the sofa, out at dinner… just about everywhere!

Here’s how it works:

Alternate nose breathing switches your body from the sympathetic (“fight-or-flight”) mode to the parasympathetic (“rest-and-digest”) mode.

Here’s how to do it:

  1. Wherever you are, try your hardest to relax. I know you’re stressed! But sometimes just knowing that I’m about to do a relaxation strategy eases some of my tension.
  2. Choose to use one of your hands. Take the index finger and cover one of your nostrils.
  3. Take a slow, deep breath in through the one uncovered nostril. Count as you inhale — I aim for 8 seconds.
  4. Then cover the other nostril (through which you just inhaled), and exhale through the nostril you were just covering. Again count as you exhale — and again, I aim for 8 seconds.
  5. Keep that same nostril covered and now breathe in through the nostril that you just used to exhale.
  6. Continue on!

It depends where I am and what I’m doing but ideally, I aim for 15 reps.

Tip: If you’re doing this someplace public, happen to be seated at a table (like in a meeting), don’t want to look odd/like you may be picking your nose, you can make it look as though you’re just resting your face on your hand while actually covering up your nostrils (using the outer edge of your pointer finger, between your pointer finger and thumb).

Have you ever tried this or another breathing exercise?

Have you found it helpful in reducing stress? Please share with us in the comments below!