This article was originally published on SundayScaries.
If you have ever experienced a panic attack or a sudden wave of anxiety, then you know exactly how miserable they can be. Your heart starts to pound a little harder, your breathing becomes a little shallower, the butterflies start fluttering in your stomach, and all you want to do is curl up in a ball or just simply get out of wherever you are.
While it may seem that you are the only person that this happens to, you aren’t. In fact, many people suffer from anxiety attacks on a daily basis, and it is extremely common. Luckily, there are some breathing exercises for anxiety relief that can help you deal with the situation, and even help prevent it from occurring altogether.
If you have ever had an experience that left you with an overwhelming feeling of anxiety, fear or even dread, you have experienced an anxiety attack. There is good news, however. Anxiety attacks, also referred to as panic attacks, can be treated and even prevented.
What Causes an Anxiety Attack?
Anxiety attacks are the result of over worrying or concern. When there is something that really concerns you—or that you’re afraid of—it will cause your body’s stress response to start a series of events that affect your endocrine and nervous systems. Your body’s reaction to this response is what dictates the strength of the anxiety attack. The higher your concern or worry is, the greater the anxiety attack.
Anxiety is a tricky thing as it keeps trying to convince you that you are in some type of danger, even though you are actually in no danger at all. And while it can feel as though you are having a heart attack if your anxiety gets severe enough, the chest pain that you feel is from you not being able to breathe properly, which tightens your chest. This is exactly why you need to practice proper breathing exercises for anxiety relief.
Why Breathe for Anxiety?
Amit Ray said it best: “If you want to conquer the anxiety of life, live in the moment, live in the breath.” If you want to be able to take control of your anxiety and control yourself when an anxiety attack strikes, you must train yourself to breathe correctly. By harnessing the power of better breathing, you are forcing your mind to focus on while relaxing your nervous system.
Doing so means that you will be able to calm yourself down and lessen the strength and amounts of your anxiety attacks.
Here are a few benefits of doing breathing exercises for anxiety relief:
- It is instantly effective
- It is extremely simple to do
- It works on a physiological level that will automatically start to slow your heart rate
- It calms down all your body systems
- It can be done anywhere
- It is free to do
Best Breathing Exercises for Anxiety Relief
While there is no shortage of breathing techniques that will help you to lessen and prevent your anxiety, it is best to try several of them out and see which one you like the best.
CO2 re-breathing is a breathing technique that allows you to rebalance your levels of oxygen and carbon dioxide. This is especially effective if you have been hyperventilating. While it won’t necessarily completely stop an anxiety attack, it will help to reduce the severity of the symptoms.
With CO2 re-breathing, what you want to do is either use a paper bag or cup both of your hands over your mouth. You then start to breathe into the bag or your hands slowly. Be sure to use deep, regular breaths and continue doing so for about five to ten breaths.
Relaxation Through Deep Breathing
While relaxation deep breathing to help you relax isn’t going to stop an anxiety attack from occurring, it is very effective for reducing high-stress situations that could lead to an attack. By the time you get to your tenth breath, you will have more than likely become much calmer and more comfortable.
To maximize relaxation through deep breathing, you will want to sit down in a comfortable position with your back straight and your arms at your sides or in your lap—whichever one is more comfortable for you. You then take a deep breath in through your nose for a count of five. Hold this breath for two to three seconds, then exhale slowly out of your mouth for about six to seven seconds. You want to breathe out as if you were going to whistle. Now repeat this ten times.
Equal Breathing “Sama Vritti”
If you have ever had trouble falling asleep, you have more than likely tried to count sheep. This works the same way. It will help to interrupt the racing thoughts going through your mind or whatever it is that is keeping you from relaxing. It also helps to calm your nervous system and get you to redirect your focus.
To get started, you must first find a comfortable meditative pose. Start to inhale for a count of four, then exhale for a count of four. Repeat this ten times. As soon as you start to feel more comfortable, try to extend the inhaled and exhaled breath for counts of six to eight.
When you try using the best breathing exercises for anxiety relief, you can tell that they are working if you start to feel calmer. When you start to feel an anxiety attack coming on, by stopping what you are doing and immediately going into these breathing exercises for anxiety relief, you will help yourself to overcome the symptoms and even prevent an anxiety attack altogether.
Just remember that incorporating breathing exercises for anxiety relief is in no way a cure for anxiety, but rather a tool to help you prevent and overcome the symptoms of anxiety if you should need to.