Anxiety breathing techniques can help anyone control anxiety. So why aren't more people using their breath to stop anxiety attacks?
Let's play the "what if" game for a moment and sweep away the two most common objections to trying breathing techniques and see if you can get a bit excited about the possibility of being able to use a simple breathing technique to feel calm and in control of anxiety.
The two main arguments against anxiety breathing techniques, and how you can overcome them and start using your breath to help you feel more peaceful today:
1. Anxiety is Too Serious to be Affected by Breathing Techniques
Thousands of people disagree. And you won't know for sure until you try it. What if you considered the benefits seriously enough to give breathing techniques a try - just for a week as an experiment?
"The entire autonomic nervous system (and through it, our internal organs and glands) is largely driven by our breathing patterns. By changing our breathing we can influence millions of biochemical reactions in our body, producing more relaxing substances such as endorphins and fewer anxiety-producing ones like adrenaline and higher blood acidity. Mindfulness of the breath is so effective that it is common to all meditative and prayer traditions." Anxiety Fear & Breathing - Breathing.com
"When overcoming high levels of anxiety, it is important to learn the techniques of correct breathing. Many people who live with high levels of anxiety are known to breathe through their chest. Shallow breathing through the chest means you are disrupting the balance of oxygen and carbon dioxide necessary to be in a relaxed state. This type of breathing will perpetuate the symptoms of anxiety." HealthyPlace.com
2. I Don't Have Time
What if you had a handful of quick and easy breathing exercises that you could try while you were sitting at a red light, or washing dishes, or picking the kids up from school, or waiting in line?
What if you could turn any waiting time into breathing time? Of course, you're breathing already, but I'm talking about special breathing. Anxiety relief breathing that will help you feel calmer every time you do it. And the beauty of these techniques is that nobody else will know you're doing it, unless of course you decide to share because you just discovered that controlling your breath really does help you reign in your mind, slow your heart rate, calm racing thoughts, and feel generally more at ease.
For a quick and easy start to using your breath to calm anxiety, try our guided calming breathing practice in the iTunes music store: Nadi Shodhana Calming Breathing Practice
3 Simple Breathing Techniques to Help You Calm Anxiety
1. The Measured Breath
Here's how you do it:
- You can sit or stand, but be sure to soften up a little before you begin. Make sure your hands are relaxed, and your knees are soft.
- Drop your shoulders and let your jaw relax.
- Now breath in slowly through your nose and count to four, keep your shoulders down and allow your stomach to expand as you breathe in.
- Hold the breath for a moment.
- Now release your breath slowly and smoothly as you count to seven.
- Repeat for a couple of minutes.
You can download a guided walkthrough of The Measured breath in the iTunes music store: The Measured Breath for Easing Anxious Thoughts
2. The Bumble Bee Breath
You might prefer to be alone for this one as you'll be making a noise. Strange though it sounds, this little technique has been used for thousands of years for calming the mind and it feels so good that you probably won't care what people think. Whenever I teach workshops on meditation or reducing stress and anxiety the Bumble Bee Breath is always a favourite.
Here's how to do it:
- Relax your shoulders
- Close your throat slightly so you can hear your breath when you breathe in
- Cover your ears with your thumbs and your eyes with your fingers
- Keep your lips closed but lightly and your teeth slightly apart with your jaw relaxed and breathe out slowly making a long, low humming sound
- Make your exhalation long and smooth
- Repeat 5-10 times
- Then sit with long slow breaths for a couple of minutes and enjoy the peace.
You can listen to a sample from our guided Bumble Bee Breath exercise here: The Bumble Bee Breath for Calming Anxiety
And finally, the most popular breathing exercise for anxiety: Diaphragmatic, or Belly, breathing. This exercise is especially effective when panic or anxiety attacks strike. I recommend you try it any time you feel slightly stressed, or aggravated so you become really familiar with it. Then, if you find yourself feeling anxious or hyperventilating you can start belly breathing immediately and it will help you feel in control fast.
3. Belly Breathing for Relaxation
- Breathe in slowly and deeply through your nose. Make sure your shoulders are down and relaxed. In this exercise, your stomach should expand, but your chest should rise very little. So, if you want, you can place one hand on your stomach and the other on your chest so you can feel how you are breathing.
- Exhale slowly through your mouth. As you blow air out, purse your lips slightly, but keep tongue and jaw relaxed. You may hear a soft “whooshing” sound as you exhale. That's good, listen for that sound every time your practice and learn to value it as the sound of relaxation.
- Repeat this breathing exercise for several minutes. Make your outgoing breath as long and smooth as you can. The out breath is the key to relaxation so give it your full attention and practice breathing out in a long slow controlled breath and you will quickly feel the benefit.
You can download a guide to belly breathing in the iTunes music store: Belly Breathing for Reducing Anxiety
Resources to Help You Use Your Breath to Calm Anxiety:
Guided relaxations and breathing exercises for anxiety relief
image credit: adedip