Its a well known fact that breathing increases as you start to panic. But the opposite is also true. If you control your breathing you can calm yourself down, relax more easily and even lower your blood pressure.
Relaxing breathing and anxiety
Breathing plays a large part in traditional relaxation techniques like yoga and meditation. You don’t need to take part in either of these though to enjoy the benefits of relaxing breathing techniques for anxiety.
With all breathing techniques you need to be sat in a comfy position. And get ready to relax.
The simplest breathing technique
Breathing is something we all do. You probably take it for granted because it is an automatic process. You inhale air, grab the oxygen and breath exhale the waste. But if you start to think about it and control the way you breath you can relax your body and mind.
The simplest breathing technique involves prolonging the exhale of breath and making it a little longer than the inhale.
Start by taking in a breath through your nose. Count to 3 as you breath in. Hold the breath in for a second and then exhale through your mouth, stretch the exhale out for 4 or 5 seconds and then wait a second until taking your next breath and repeat the process again.
You should adjust the timings for your comfort but as long as the exhale is a little longer you should start to relax.
How Does This Work?
It works by effecting the nerves that run through the diaphragm. When you implement this breathing technique the nerves send messages to your brain to relax the central nervous system.
Are there any other breathing techniques?
Sure. In fact there are loads of them, below are a few more that you can try. Although I should say that i am not entirely sure how much better these techniques work over the method above.
Equal breathing as the name suggests is breathing in and out for exactly the same amount of time. Again, sit comfortably in a chair or on a cushion. Breath in for four seconds, then out for four seconds, then in for four seconds…….
Alternate Nostril Breathing
Sounds strange and, to be honest, it is a little strange. The idea is to get the same amount of oxygen to each side of the brain by breathing through one nostril at a time.
Start by covering your right nostril and taking in a deep breath through the left. When you finish breathing in, cover the left nostril and breath out through the right. Then alternate and do the same with the other nostril.
You probably don’t take any notice, but you usually breath into your rib cage and it expands to make way for the inflated lung.
This isn’t the only place your lungs can expand to. By purposely stopping them expanding into the chest you can do what is called a belly breath.
Start by relaxing your upper body muscles. Now put your hand your chest to make sure you don’t cheat. Take a deep breath through your nose and let your belly expand instead of your chest. Hold the breath for a couple seconds and then let it out through your nose again. This is a belly breath.
Other anxiety breathing tips
A sure sign of an anxiety attack is fast breathing so if you can start to control your breathing you can start to get rid the symptoms and start to relax a bit. Here are a few top tips to help the breathing techniques be effective:
- Practice makes perfect. Even if you aren’t having a panic attack, it is worth practicing relaxing breathing techniques just for the relaxation time that it will bring. And once you have mastered the art of relaxation, you can call on it whenever you want!
- Get comfy. If you aren’t seated in a comfy position then you are never going to relax. Find a comfy position before you begin and you can drift off into your own world. One point, you may actually fall asleep if you are lay down so would suggest using a seat rather than a bed.
- Get quiet. Turn the TV off and try and get rid of any other distractions. Wait until kids/spouses are out of ear shot before you begin.
- Make time for it. Most people have busy lives and might not think they have time to try out breathing techniques….or even relaxation techniques at all! Make time. When the kids are in bed or when everybody is out just put a few minutes a day aside to practice breathing techniques.
- Have a glass of water and visit the toilet beforehand. Again we are trying to eliminate distractions. If you need the toilet you arent going to relax entirely until you have been. Some people find that concentrating on their breathing drys their throat out. I have no idea why but its always nice to have a glass of water handy.
- Darken the room a little. Dim the lights and maybe light some candles. The idea here is to relax so whatever you can do to make yourself relax a little is a good thing.
- Don’t give up. Breathing techniques are only the tip of the iceberg to control anxiety and relaxation but none of it happens over night. it takes time and a little bit of effort.
- Don’t think to hard. Its a common mistake that people make. They concentrate so hard on trying to relax that their mind starts to race and they achieve nothing. Your body and mind are both capable of relaxation almost without your intervention. Concentrate on the breathing only and don’t worry about trying to relax, it will come if you sit there long enough. Don’t think about what you have been doing today or what you are going to do tomorrow, just concentrate on the now and your breathing.
Most people find that breathing techniques help a lot, even in the middle of a panic attack. These techniques must be practiced often to be effective though, so set a little time aside each day.
The next step is meditation, but that’s an article for another day!