Here are breathing tips to calm you down when you’re feeling anxious.
- Try breathing in through your nose and deep into your stomach. This is a stomach breathing style, when on the inhale, your belly expands, not just your chest. This promotes calm more than the chest breathing style. Breathing through your nose also kicks in your body’s automatic calming response. Imagine you’re filling your belly with air when you inhale, then empty your stomach of air when you exhale.
- Try this calming breathing style:
1) Ensure that you’re sitting comfortably.
2) Inhale through your nose slowly, for 4 seconds.
3) Hold your breath for 2 seconds.
4) Exhale through your nose slowly, for 6 seconds.
5) Pause for a bit, before breathing in again.
- Try and practice this calming breathing style once or twice a day. Find time in the day when you won’t be distracted to practice this breathing style. In time, you’ll find that your regular breathing rate will calm down to normal and will reduce your general level of anxiety. With enough practice, it can also help reduce your level of anxiety when you’re in a stressful situation.
Why our breath is our doorway to anxiety or calm.
- Our breathing affects our physical state. Changes in our breathing directly affect our bodies. For example, when we’ve had a fright, we breathe faster, which in turn makes us feel breathless, light-headed or feel tingly.
- If our breathing is in balance, we feel more in balance too. Our bodies need a balance of oxygen and carbon dioxide. Our body takes the oxygen it needs and releases carbon dioxide through our breath. This balance is maintained through the speed and depth of our breath.
- If we breathe too fast, we may take in more oxygen than what we need. Faster breathing is helpful when we’re exercising, as our bodies need more oxygen at this time. But when we’re anxious and our breathing speeds up, our bodies take in more oxygen than it needs. This causes symptoms like dizziness, light-headedness, confusion, blurred vision, breathlessness, numbness, cold clammy hands and muscle stiffness.
- Continuous overbreathing can leave us feeling exhausted or ‘on edge’. This makes us even more likely to respond to stress with anxiety, fright or panic, and continue the cycle of overbreathing and anxiety.
- Gaining control over our breath can help stop anxiety. Just as overbreathing can affect our bodies in a negative way, being able to control our breath by slowing it down and deepening it can calm us down.