I don’t know about you, but I find that my repertoire of breathing techniques helps me handle most situations in life, when I feel all worked up or anxious. I am sure you’ve been told more times than you can count to “take a deep breath” when you are freaking out about something!
It might sound odd to use breathing to manage anxiety, but there’s a very good reason why breathing techniques can work so well. It is because while many things are outside our control, our breathing is the only aspect of our physiology that we can consciously control with ease.
For instance we cannot do the following:
- Alter our digestion.
- Change our blood pressure.
- Decide where our body is going to store fat.
- Alter the level of hormones in our blood.
But we can regulate our breathing
Studies prove that breath control can change our lives -for the better. We can breathe faster or slower, deeply, or shallowly as we wish. But can we just tell ourselves that we will reduce our blood pressure by ten points and make it happen? Nope. Even when you want to check your blood pressure, a good doctor will ask you to lie down and relax for a few minutes before checking just so you can get better readings.
Our breathing affects our physiology significantly
We can use the power of our breath to effectively manage our anxiety and the best part? It is free and accessible whenever we want.
Let me share four amazing breathing techniques that can help you manage your anxiety. Go ahead and practice them as you read each breathing technique if you like!
4 breathing techniques to effectively manage anxiety
The first breathing technique is equal breathing and used in yoga. Here is what you do:
Close your eyes and assess your normal breathing pattern. Observe how many seconds you take to breathe in and to breathe out. Do this for a couple of minutes.
Next, count from 1 to 4 as you inhale through your nose. If you have a stuffy nose feel free to breathe in through your mouth.
Now exhale and count 1 to 4.
Don’t stress yourself over the breathing – just inhale and exhale comfortably, fully.
Repeat this about five to ten times, keeping the count same for the inhales and exhales.
The second breathing technique is the long exhale. It works wonderfully especially when you panic and helps you overcome the effects of hyperventilation. We’ll split this into two parts.
Part 1: extend your exhalations for as long as you can. Breathe out as much air as you can without struggling.
Then, relax and let your lungs fill with air naturally, without exerting yourself. After you long-exhale, your lungs will automatically fill with air when you relax.
Now long exhale and inhale for about five full minutes.
Part 2: exhale for twice as long as you inhale. So three seconds inhale and six seconds exhale, to begin with. Try to extend this gradually, comfortably. Do this for five full minutes and see how you feel.
This breathing technique is quite effective when you want to feel better.
How to do it?
Lie down on your back. Place one or both hands on your belly.
Inhale deeply and hold it for as long as you comfortably can. You’ll feel your belly rise.
Relax and let yourself exhale naturally without conscious effort.
Pause and repeat. Anything from five to ten minutes is fine but do feel free to do it for longer.
Alternate nostril breathing
This is another breathing technique taught in yoga and perhaps one of the best ways to take your mind off whatever is making you anxious because you need to focus on this breathing technique. Here’s how you do it:
Start by breathing normally, but through one nostril at a time. Place your finger over one nostril and then inhale and exhale through the other nostril.
When you complete one breath cycle, place your finger over the other nostril and breathe through the first one.
You can combine this with another breathing technique if you like.
The above four techniques will help you minimize your anxiety when you learn how to manage your breath to your advantage. Breathing has a powerful effect on your body and your emotions.
The next time you feel anxiety coming on, do try these breathing techniques – you will feel in a much better frame of mind to tackle whatever is bothering you!