Can you begin to reduce stress with just one (long, slow ) breath?

Photo by Mikhail Nilov


Life can feel hectic, especially for parents of young children who inhabit a whole other universe of responsibility. Burnout is becoming an everyday reality and stress is being normalised.

While not everyone is in a position to change their lives to a great degree, one thing the majority of people can do is to breathe with more focus.

Simplifying things starts with just one breath. No matter what is happening, through mindful breathing you have the power to soothe yourself and calm things internally: this is human biology.


After many years of working with stressed-out adults, my postgrad research saw me focusing on the sociology of health. It involved reading lots of medical, social, and scientific studies from Europe, the US, Australia, Africa, and Asia. Stress was mentioned by everyone, everywhere.

If stress is a major source of suffering and disease worldwide, how have we come to this? And what can we do?

Photo by Pedro Figueras


Some main causes of human stress include environmental pollution, a faster pace of life, psychosocial disturbances, eating habits, and sedentary lifestyles. That is why we are seeing an increase in stress-related disorders. [1] Populations all over the planet are being affected.

This is a huge topic, and I am not claiming to be an expert. There are many different types of stress. Here, I will just focus briefly on psychosocial stress.

Photo by iSAW Company


‘Psychosocial’ refers to elements of life that are a combination of our individual psychology and social factors.

According to Dr. Mary Elizabeth Dean there are three particular settings in which psychosocial stress usually manifests.

  • Social evaluation (being judged by one’s peers)

  • Social exclusion (being rejected by others)

  • Achievement/goal-oriented situations (having one’s performance judged by others).


What to do then, if you don’t fancy becoming a hermit? The good news is that uncomplicated techniques are available to us that can help: like breathwork.

There is now more and more evidence emerging that some forms of pranayama (yoga breathing) are beneficial in the treatment of stress, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression, stress-related medical illnesses, and substance abuse. [2]

Photo by Christina Morillo


Talking with a professional therapist is one of the best ways to unravel the root causes of stress and anxiety. This can also help with the development of coping skills.

Be careful. Counselling and psychotherapy professionals receive clinical supervision as part of their training. Check their credentials.


To recap, stress is part of life for most people. It is on the rise worldwide. Our bodies react to it automatically, even if there is no real threat. Simple breathing techniques have been proven to help. To talk with a stress expert, always seek a qualified therapist who has had clinical training.

Below are some resources in county Kerry.


Pieta House website.

Yoga Therapy Tralee Paola Kennedy phone 087 901 3689.

Social Prescribing

Family Resource centres

Creative therapy Michelle Louise Quinn, Listowel.

See Change Working to reduce mental health stigma in Ireland. Phone 01 541 3715.

West Kerry counselling Natalie Satkauskas MIACP phone 086 254 3643.

If you want news of my October online session (gentle yoga breathing for health), get in touch:


[1] Sameer E. Sope and Rakesh A.Zope (2013), ‘Breathing for Hope’.

[2] Kochupillai V, Bhardwaj N.  (2006) National symposium on Science of Holistic Living and Its Global Application.


Living in Ireland, I am qualified and experienced yoga instructor. An avid researcher and writer, I’ve had over 20 years of experience in working with groups through the arts. Creativity is my soul food.

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