Updated: Jun 6
You've probably heard that breathing is a good call if you're stressed out. What's fascinating is the reason why it works so well: breathing deeply lets your nervous system know that it can chill out according to studies.
Deep diaphragmatic breathing is a powerful anxiety-reducing technique because it activates the body's relaxation response. The first thing you do when you get anxious is to shallow breathe or even pant.
During an emergency, your breathing rate and pattern changes. Instead of breathing slowly from your lower lungs, you breathe rapidly from your upper lungs. If, during this time you are not physically exerting yourself, it can produce ‘hyperventilation.’
Hyperventilation is when you start to breathe very fast. Good breathing occurs with a healthy balance between breathing in oxygen and breathing out carbon dioxide. You upset this balance when you hyperventilate by exhaling more than you inhale.
This in turn can explain many of the uncomfortable symptoms during panic:
· shortness of breath
· a lump in the throat
· tingling or numbness in the hands or feet
The good news is that by changing your breathe you can reverse these symptoms with deep diaphragmatic breathing.
Deep diaphragmatic breathing is a powerful anxiety-reducing technique because it activates the body’s relaxation response. It helps the body go from the fight-or-flight response of the sympathetic nervous system to the relaxed response of the parasympathetic nervous system.
I’m going to show you 3 ways to change your breathing. It’s really useful to practice these when you’re not feeling anxious so that you will easily remember them when you need them most.
3 ways to change your breathing
1. Abdominal Breath. This is a good way to breathe all day long, unless you are involved in exercise. In other words, you should practice breathing this way all the time, since it provides for sufficient oxygen intake and controls the exhalation of carbon dioxide.
It goes like this:
· Gently and slowly inhale a normal amount of air through your nose, filling your lower lungs
· Then exhale easily
· Put one hand on your stomach and one on your chest
· As you inhale gently, your lower hand should rise while your upper hand stays still
· Continue this gentle breathing pattern with a relaxed attitude, concentrating on filling only the lower lung
This breathing pattern is the opposite of the one which comes automatically during anxious moments. Instead of breathing rapidly and shallowly into the upper lungs, which expands the chest, you breathe gently into the lower lungs, expanding the abdomen.
2. Calm Breath. This is deep diaphragmatic breathing and can be used during times when you are feeling anxious or panicky. It is a powerful way to control hyperventilation, slow a rapid heartbeat and feel more in control.
Practice this breathing at least 10 times a day for several weeks. Use it during times of transition, when you are concentrating or whenever you want to let go of anxiety and begin to experience a sense of calmness.
It goes like this:
· Take a long, slow breath in through your nose, first filling your lower lungs, then your upper lungs
· Hold your breath to the count of 3
· Exhale slowly through pursed lips, while you relax the muscles in your face, jaw, shoulders, and stomach
This will help you become familiar and comfortable with the process. And use it any time you begin to feel anxiety or panic building. It’s good to practice this so you can use it as a tool to help you calm down during panic. It will help you be more familiar and comfortable with the process.
3. Hot Chocolate. Pretend you have a mug of hot chocolate in your hands. Smell the warm chocolatey smell for three, hold it for one, blow it cool for three, hold it for one. Repeat three or four times.
Because you spend time concentrating on a specific task, you tend to pay less attention to your anxious thoughts. When you do this for 90 seconds, you will get a bit of traction on calming your mind and this will reduce your anxiety.
Practice these three techniques on a regular basis and notice the difference!