Just breathe! Yes, you have heard that a million times if you are suffering with anxiety. However, there is scientific truth in the fact that abdominal breathing does work to reduce an anxious state!!
Your Breathing Can Contribute to Your Anxiety and Panic
Most people are not really conscious of the way they are breathing, but generally, there are two types of breathing patterns:
- Thoracic (chest) breathing
- Diaphragmatic (abdominal) breathing
When people are anxious they tend to take rapid, shallow breaths that come directly from the chest (sounds familiar if you have ever had a panic attack?). This type of breathing is called thoracic or chest breathing. When you’re feeling anxious, you may not even be aware that you’re breathing this way.
Chest breathing causes an upset in the oxygen and carbon dioxide levels in the body resulting in increased heart rate, dizziness, muscle tension, cold and clammy hands, “flushing” sensation, and trembling. Your blood is not being properly oxygenated and this may signal a “fight or flight” response that contributes to anxiety and panic attacks. Good news….your body is doing what it is supposed to do if there was a life-threatening event happening, but with panic attacks and anxious distress, there usually is no real threat.
The way to breathe to help with anxiety and panic is Abdominal (diaphragmatic)Breathing or Belly Breathing! Breathing with the abdomen, where your belly expands with the in breath, and relaxes with the out breath slow the Parasympathetic system down. Belly breathing lowers your blood pressure, slows your heart rate and allows oxygen to flow in the body more effectively. You can guess what this means then…….no more racing heart, no more clammy hands, no more dizziness, no more trembling, and no more flushing. Sounds good, right? So try it now:
Simple Abdominal Breathing Exercise for Relaxation
The next time you’re feeling anxious try this simple relaxation technique:
- Inhale slowly and deeply through your nose. Keep your shoulders relaxed. Your abdomen should expand like a balloon on the in-breath, and your chest should rise very little. It helps to place a hand on your belly to get used to this way of breathing.
- Exhale slowly through your mouth. As you blow air out, purse your lips slightly, but keep your jaw relaxed. You may hear a soft “whooshing” sound as you exhale.
- Repeat this breathing exercise for several minutes.
You can perform this exercise as often as needed. It can be done standing up, sitting down or lying down. Remember, you always have your breath, so use it to calm yourself down from anxiety.
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