Have you ever been so stressed out that you almost forgot to breathe? Instead, you are breathing like you are out of breath from running a race.
When we get uptight, we speed ourselves up. Alarms go off in our body because our mind is telling the body there is a danger. Just like we speed up our body, we can also slow it down when the fear isn’t useful. One of the ways to calm anxiety is to practice breathing exercises.
Obviously breathing is automatic, but so is rapid breathing when you perceive a threat. If there is a real danger, it would be useful to speed up. But when there is no danger, being sped up makes you feel worse.
“Fear is not real. It is a product of thoughts you create. Do not misunderstand me. Danger is very real. But Fear is a choice.”~Will Smith, After Earth
Anxiety Triggers the Alarm
Anxiety is a fear fantasy we create by distorting reality with our own perceptions. While our perceptions may be half true, they are a distortion. Anxiety only focuses on the negative and narrow viewpoints. Like worrying that your anxiety symptoms mean you are weak and can’t handle change. When you focus on fears like this, they grow.
Anxiety triggers an alarm, and you start protecting yourself from perceived danger. You may withdraw, lash out, overwork, or focus on someone else as the problem. So anxiety not only impacts how you feel physically but can also impact your relationships with others.
Practicing Breathing Exercises for Anxiety
The good news is you can turn down the volume of your anxiety. You can practice relaxation techniques and feel more confident in managing anxiety over time.
Here are some ideas for practicing breathing exercises:
- Sit or lie in a comfortable position.
- Close your eyes.
- Put one hand on your stomach and one hand on your chest.
- Focus on observing your breath moving.
- Breath deeply into your stomach more than into your chest.
- Inhale through your nose.
- Exhale through your mouth.
- Allow your exhale to be longer than your inhale.
- Pause gently between breaths.
- Visualize your breath is riding a wave where the tide comes in and goes out with the breath.
- Feel yourself sinking and relaxing.
Let the simple and powerful rhythms of your breathing calm you down. You can’t be as anxious when you are sending signals to your body to relax. Let your breathing lower the alarms going off in your body and your mind will be invited to follow.
Yoga Breathing to Calm Anxiety
For those of you who learn better seeing and doing, here is one of my favorite yoga teachers. Enjoy learning this calming and energizing yoga breathing called Ujjayi taught by Adrienne:
While the goal isn’t to eliminate all anxiety, it is calming to find ways to tone down the anxiety. Your breath is always with you, so repeat these breathing exercises as needed. And if you want it to become natural to breathe in this way, practice daily, even when you aren’t feeling anxious.
What helps you calm anxiety?
Marci Payne, MA, LPC offers anxiety counseling services for adults and teens in Independence MO (and serving surrounding Blue Springs and Lee’s Summit area). Sometimes you aren’t able to tone down anxiety, but you can learn to face anxiety and choose what you focus on instead. Schedule free 15-minute phone consult with me and take a step toward no longer believing the lies that anxiety tells you.