Breathing and Anxiety

Anxiety is a physiological response to a stimulus which our bodies consider dangerous or life-threatening. Most people identify anxiety as an overwhelming sense of impending doom, sometimes resulting in shakiness, lightheadedness, chest pain, heart palpitations, tingling, visual, and auditory changes. The feelings may be so intense it can be mistaken for a heart attack.

When appropriately invoked, anxiety can be the driving force that helps us rise to many challenges. Unfortunately when this response is continuously triggered by less severe, day-to-day events, such as relationship problems, and concerns about money, career, friends or family.

Our emotions dramatically affect our breathing patterns, which in turn can intensify our emotions. It is a downward spiral that perpetuates itself, but the flipside is that our breathing pattern can also affect our feelings. This phenomenon gives us the power to take control of our emotions and how they affect us physically.

When living in a state of constant stress, our breathing patterns can become dysfunctional. We can get stuck breathing shallow and too quickly. Once this pattern becomes our new normal a lot of health problems can occur as a result such as high blood pressure, a compromised immune system, or depression and anxiety,

You have the power to control anxiety by learning how to breathe correctly!

For those of you who were taught that “good posture” means sucking it in and puffing out your chest, this will be a considerable challenge. Shallow “chest breathing” may feel normal to you, but it limits the diaphragm’s range of motion preventing the lowest part of the lungs from filling fully and getting a full dose of oxygenated air. Chest breathing can increase tension and anxiety, so it is well worth unlearning.

Chest Breathing is Bad.

Belly Breathing is Good.

When you breathe properly, the air coming in through your nose (not your mouth) fully fills your lungs, and the lower belly rises (not your chest, or shoulders). When you exhale correctly, you FULLY exhale ALL the air in your lungs. Doing this can feel crazy if you have never practiced this, so be gentle with yourself while you learn.

Diaphragmatic breathing can slow the heartbeat and lower or stabilize blood pressure.


.:Practicing Belly Breathing:.

Find a quiet, place to sit or lie down, place one hand on your chest and the other on your abdomen.

First, take a normal breath and observe the movement taking place in your chest, neck, shoulders, and abdomen. Then try a deep breath: inhale slowly through your nose, allowing your lower belly to rise as you fill your lungs. Let your abdomen expand fully from the front and sides. Now breathe out slowly through your nose and exhale slightly longer than your inhale.

Once you have gotten comfortable, close your eyes and combine deep breathing with guided imagery or perhaps a focus word or phrase to help facilitate relaxation.

One tool I love to use when I struggle to focus is an app called Insight Timer.

There are are a myriad of relaxation techniques to try, but most importantly fine one that works for you. And if your practice begins to feel rote or ineffective, try something new. Just be sure to give each technique a chance before moving on…

Create a special place where you can sit (or lie down) comfortably and quietly. Schedule time and set a boundary, so you are not interrupted.

Practice. Progress. And remember, perfection is not attainable, so stop chasing it. Be kind and loving with yourself and allow yourself to enjoy this experience without judgment. Try to practice at the same time to enhance the sense of ritual and establish a habit.

Aim to practice about 10–20 minutes each day.
If 5 minutes is the best you can do, count that as a win!
There is no place for negativity in this practice!!


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