You may know the feeling – unease, nervousness, butterflies in your stomach, sweaty palms, nausea, and even fear. It can happen before an important meeting, while you’re stuck in traffic, or even creep up on you when you’re having a quiet night at home.
Anxiety can strike at any time, and when it happens, it can feel overwhelming and for many people, it’s hard to manage.
While anxiety can feel different person to person, common physical sensations include a racing heart, shallow breathing, tightness in the chest, trembling or shaking, and stomach discomfort.
Emotionally, anxiety can lead to feelings of fear, nervousness, and a sense of impending danger. It can cause negative thoughts and worries to loop in one’s mind, leading to difficulty concentrating, sleep problems, and overall distress.
Most of the time, it’s our thoughts that create these reactions in the body that cause anxiety and in turn, influence the way we breathe. Getting a handle on our thoughts, bringing awareness to them, and slowing our breath can help reduce our feelings of anxiety.
You’ve probably been told to “take a deep breath” when anxiety strikes. While it may seem like an overly simplified solution to real and difficult feelings, there are deep breathing exercises and breathwork techniques for anxiety that you can do regularly that will help.
In fact, the key to controlling the feelings of anxiety resides within your breath, and if you can learn to control your breathing, you can learn to control your anxiety.
The best part – you can use breathing exercises the moment you feel anxious, no matter where you are, and calm your nervous system almost instantly.
How Deep Breathing Exercises Can Reduce Anxiety
When we’re feeling anxious, our breathing becomes shallow and rapid, which can lead to increased feelings of panic and stress. Breathing exercises are effective and accessible tools that you can use any time, anywhere, to manage your anxiety.
By consciously controlling our breathing, we can activate our parasympathetic nervous system, which can help to decrease our heart rate and promote feelings of relaxation.
Deep breathing exercises like diaphragmatic breathing, box breathing, or alternate nostril breathing can help to slow down our breathing and increase oxygen intake, which can reduce symptoms of anxiety. By regularly practicing breathing exercises, we can train our body to react more calmly to stressful situations and improve our overall sense of wellbeing.
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Best breathing exercises for anxiety
Below are some simple exercises to calm your breath and reduce anxiety. Click here to watch each of these breathing techniques in our our how-to videos.
- Diaphragmatic breathing: Also known as belly breathing, this technique involves breathing deeply into the diaphragm, allowing the belly to expand, and exhaling slowly. This technique can help to reduce feelings of stress and anxiety and improve oxygenation.
- Box breathing: This technique involves inhaling for a count of four, holding the breath for a count of four, exhaling for a count of four, and holding the breath for a count of four. This technique can help to regulate breathing and promote feelings of calmness.
- Alternate nostril breathing: This technique involves inhaling through one nostril, holding the breath, and exhaling through the other nostril. This technique can help to reduce stress and promote a sense of balance.
- 4-7-8 breathing or Sleepy Breath: This technique involves inhaling for a count of four, holding the breath for a count of seven, and exhaling for a count of eight. This technique can help to calm the mind and reduce feelings of anxiety.
- Humming breath: The humming breath technique, also known as Bhramari Pranayama, is a yogic breathing practice that involves creating a humming sound while exhaling. To perform this technique, sit comfortably and take a deep breath in through your nose. Then, while exhaling slowly, make a humming sound like a bee by constricting your throat. The sound should be smooth and steady, and you should feel the vibrations in your head and chest. Repeat this process for several rounds, focusing on the sound and sensation of the vibration. This breathing technique can help calm the mind, reduce stress, and promote relaxation.
- Progressive muscle relaxation: This technique involves tensing and then relaxing different muscle groups while breathing deeply. This technique can help to reduce muscle tension and promote feelings of relaxation.
How a Regular Breathwork Practice Can Reduce your Anxiety
While breathwork refers to various techniques and practices that involve conscious control and manipulation of breathing patterns, it is so much more than just taking deep breaths.
Breathwork has physical, mental, and spiritual benefits, and its techniques involve deep and rhythmic breathing exercises that can facilitate healing, personal growth, and self-awareness.
Breathwork helps practitioners shine light on their shadows – mental and emotional – so that you can become aware of them and consciously let them go, and in many cases people are able to let go of the causes of their anxiety and are better able to manage their stress.
By incorporating breathwork into your daily life, you better equip yourself to face the challenges that arise for you. You also become more adept at deep breathing and have an arsenal of breathing techniques at your disposal — so if you DO become stressed out in a meeting, you can quietly use your breathing knowledge to calm your nervous system, slow your heart rate and focus on what you need to do or say next.
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Free Breathwork Mini Course
We know that trying something new can be overwhelming. That’s why we created this mini-course. Over five days, you’ll experience the benefits of breathwork for anxiety and beyond. Click here to try it for free.