How breathing can help combat fear and stress

It’s not very well known that fear, chronic stress and pain are usually interrelated. But it doesn’t end there. The cause of chronic stress and pain is due to a pre-existing fear affecting one’s thought process.

We live in a society where everyone is always busy. Many people work in high-stress situations. This is compounded by advances in technology which makes it more difficult to leave work at work.

So how is fear interrelated with stress and pain? I discuss this further below and give some simple deep-breathing techniques to help you combat them.

The relationship between fear and stress

There’s nothing wrong with having a little bit of stress. It can be a great motivator to get things done. Like stress, optimal levels of fear are necessary to ensure the safety and sanity of us human beings.

As I indicated above, stress itself is one of the by-products of fear. The emotion of fear starts a chain reaction in the brain. This commonly occurs when you’re in unknown environments that make you feel vulnerable. Vulnerability is often viewed as a weakness in the corporate world. This, in turn, is when the body starts producing stress hormones creating a fight-or-flight response. This is when you may start to breathe faster and your heart rate goes through the roof.

An excess of stress hormones can have devastating effects on your overall health. One such effect is a change in our pain threshold. People who lead stressful lifestyles ordinarily develop chronic pain due to stress. As a result, if you remain in fear all the time and develop chronic stress, it can upset your ability to overcome physical pain. There’s a simple trick that can solve this issue or prevent it from occurring in the first place – breathing!

Overcoming fear, chronic stress and pain through breathing

The pioneer of Gestalt therapy, Fritz Perls, once said, “Fear is excitement without the breath”. He argued that instead of talking about their fears, people should be subjected to them in a controlled environment. This concept was widely accepted and adopted by the psychiatric profession worldwide. Perls placed great emphasis on controlled breathing. He considered controlled breathing as the ultimate cure for stress, anxiety and fear.

On average, a human takes about 12 to 18 breaths per minute. There are many physical symptoms of stress. Subconsciously reducing the number of breaths one takes per minute is one such symptom. And experts say this is the most dangerous one. At first, this doesn’t make sense – particularly when stressful situations can cause a person to breathe faster. However, some people may forget to breathe for many seconds when confronted with stressful circumstances. This, in turn, can lead to complications of the heart, lungs and other vital organs, ultimately affecting one’s pain threshold.

So what are some good breathing techniques?

First off, you need to be completely aware of how you are breathing. The rest will then come easily! Here are some tried-and-tested breathing techniques that can:

  • Help lower your heart rate
  • Reduce stress levels and anxiety, and
  • Diminish pain, to some extent.

Intentional yawning

Yawning is a healthy process, triggered when we’re tired or bored and do not breathe as deeply as we should. This shortage of oxygen prompts us to take a long deep breath (a yawn), replenishing our body with much-needed oxygen. This, in turn, increases our concentration. But what if we yawned on purpose? It’s considered a great breathing technique by many experts and fitness gurus.

Breathe fresh air in deeply through your nostrils, expanding your abdomen as much as possible and filling your lungs with oxygen. Then hold for a few seconds and exhale through your mouth, just like you would whilst yawning. You can repeat this exercise a few times during the day, for as long as you like.

Focused breathing

Ensuring that you breathe the correct way depends a lot on how focused you are. We tend to get lost in the day-to-day stresses of our lives that we stop paying attention to the essentials. Breathing is definitely essential! This leads to my next breathing technique which you can do while sitting at your desk at work. It helps to maintain your focus.

Designate a few minutes every other hour to sit back, close your eyes and focus on your breathing. Be conscious of the air flowing into your lungs as you inhale deeply. Hold it for a few seconds and focus on your heart being gently squeezed. Then breath out slowly. Feel the tension leaving your chest. Consistent repetition will eventually turn this exercise into a healthy subconscious habit. This technique will help you:

  • Lower your stress levels
  • Overcome fear and
  • Over time, decrease your pain.

Equilibrium between inhales and exhales

Some people have difficulty holding their breath. This includes people who smoke or have a medical condition that makes breathing deeply without coughing difficult or causes some discomfort. To overcome this, try to equalise the duration of your inhales and exhales. By starting small, you’ll be able to gradually extend the duration of your breaths. Cutting out bad habits, such as smoking, will also help with this.

De-stress hold

This particular technique is what I teach in my practice as it’s simple, fast and effective. It’s best to demonstrate this technique through video. Click here to watch how this technique works.


Out of the many possible causes of chronic pain, prolonged stress and fearful situations are often overlooked. Practise simple deep-breathing techniques and reward your body with a little extra oxygen. You can do deep-breathing techniques anywhere – at home or at work. This will help you to overcome stress, control your fears and diminish your pain.

My final piece of advice is to make necessary changes in your lifestyle. Avoid stressful situations at all costs.


Dawn Cady


Dawn Cady is Australia’s premiere transformation & pain management coach and winner of multiple awards for her groundbreaking work. The Neural Alignment Method®  is Dawn’s remarkable brainchild, bringing together the world’s best healing and mindset techniques. With unique expertise and passion, she has helped countless others to achieve real, tangible success, along with a renewed enjoyment and satisfaction in all areas of life.