How To Use Your Breath To Control Anxious Thoughts


When you want to escape from anxiety, one of the easiest ways to do it is to use your breath. Every emotion you experience has it's own breathing pattern: anger produces rapid erratic breathing, sadness makes us sigh, and anxiety has a shallow rapid breathing pattern.

If you are feeling angry and you take a deep breath and pause, your anger will begin to dissipate and your thoughts will begin to settle down and become more rational.

The ancient sciences of yoga and ayurveda both teach that your mind is deeply affected by your breath. When your breathing is fast and shallow it stirs up your thoughts like the waves on the ocean. Every wave that crashes to the shore brings with it sand and debris that it has stirred up from the floor; but beyond the waves where the water is still and deep, the sand and plants stay settled on the ocean bed. Beneath the surface of the water everything is quiet and still.

When you learn to slow and deepen your breath your stirred up thoughts and feelings will begin to settle. The more you practice directing your breath, the more you can enjoy a sense of internal space and peace where you can sit, rest and reflect, and it is in that quiet and un-stirred up place that you can feel a relaxed awareness that is the exact opposite to the experience of anxiety.


A Simple Anxiety Relief Breathing Exercise

For best results, don't wait until you're feeling anxious to try this, but practice it during times when you feel fairly comfortable so you get to know it and feel it's benefits. Try practicing morning and night every day for best results, it will only take you about 5 minutes.


   - Find somewhere to sit where you won't be disturbed for the next five minutes.


   - Rest your hands on your lap. Let your shoulders relax and roll back and down towards the ground.


   - Relax your jaw and mouth, make sure your tongue is relaxed too.


   - You can close your eyes if you feel comfortable doing so, or find a spot to focus on.


   - Feel your feet on the floor, and feel your legs resting on your seat.


   - Take a slow deep breath in through your nose and count to four

     1-2-3-4. Breath in as deeply as you can and feel your stomach stretch and expand.


   - Now breath out through your mouth slowly as you count to seven 1-2-3-4-5-6-7


   - Empty your lungs completely and pause for a moment.


   - Repeat 10 times. One deep breath in and count to four, one long breath out and count to seven.


   - Every breath will help to relax you a little bit more. 


Taking long breaths out triggers the relaxation response in your body. It tells your mind and nervous system that you are safe and in control.


This simple little routine can help you feel calm anytime you begin to feel anxious, stressed, or upset. And, since it's invisible, you can practice it anywhere: on a bus, or train, in the park, or at your desk (perhaps a mini version for just a breath or two), or take yourself off to a rest room for five minutes. No one will notice.

If you make a habit of breathing for anxiety relief you will soon feel the benefits of being able to reign in your anxious thoughts and quiet your mind.

For more thorough guidance on breathing, meditation and recovery from anxiety, please take a look at our new Anxiety Rescue Kit.

image by justCRONO 


Listen to the Anxiety Slayer podcast for this article here, and we'll talk you through the breathing exercise. To keep this episode on your iPod for future reference, please subscribe on iTunes.






Resources to Help You Use Your Breath to Calm Anxiety:



Guided relaxations and breathing exercises for anxiety relief  

Transition to Calm - Guided Relaxations for Stress & Anxiety Relief - Shann Vander Leek & Ananga Sivyer


image credit: adedip