They work by activating the parasympathetic nervous system, which helps to calm the body. Unfortunately, many people who constantly suffer from anxiety do not know how undertake these breathing exercises properly. The good news is that, these breathing exercises for anxiety are easy to learn, and anyone can use them to overcome this problem.
The sympathetic system helps the body to respond to short-term emergencies. It triggers the body to perform at a higher level like running faster or staying awake for longer periods. Basically, it helps the body to hit harder. When a person is suffering from anxiety, the body responds by activating his/her sympathetic nervous system, and it is put on a ‘flight’ or ‘fight’ mode. This means that anxiety patients have their sympathetic nervous system constantly switched on, which is not good. This is what actually causes the symptoms of anxiety.
Another thing that is affected by the activation of the body’s sympathetic nervous system is breathing. Basically, it increases the rate of breathing. As a result, using breathing exercises for anxiety to reduce the rate of breathing can calm the body. Patients who are anxious can use these breathing exercises to override the ‘flight’ or ‘fight’ mode of their sympathetic nervous system, and thereby avoid getting a panic attack. If you suffer from anxiety, you most probably feel it building up inside. Once you notice the first signs of an anxiety attack approaching such as the shortness of breath, a lump in your throat, butterflies in your stomach and a racing heart, you can use these breathing exercises for anxiety to calm things down. The following are some simple, but highly-effective exercises that you can use whenever you feel anxious.
- The first one involves the activation of your diaphragm. You can undertake this breathing exercise either while lying down with your knees bent up or while seated and well supported. The most important thing is to ensure that you are completely relaxed. Use your upper part of the chest to suck in air and lift your shoulders. Then, breathe out and let your shoulders collapse down to their normal relaxed position. Repeat this 2-4 times. After this, you need to practice quite diaphragmatic breathing. Place one of your hands on your abdomen and the other on your chest. This will help you to know whether your diaphragm is working properly. The hand on your chest should not be moving at all while the one on your abdomen should rise up when you are breathing in, and sink downwards when you are breathing out. Practice quiet diaphragmatic breathing for 2-3 minutes. While doing it, ensure your shoulders, neck and chest are relaxed. Focus your mind on your breath to keep it off distressing thoughts. Just think calm, relaxing thoughts. This will help your body to override your sympathetic system.
- The other effective breathing exercise that can help you to overcome this problem involves the use of small breath holds. All you need to do is to take a small breath in through your nose followed by a small breath out. While breathing out, hold your breath for 5 seconds, and then let go. Gently breathe in again through your nose and follow this with 10 relaxed, quiet diaphragmatic breaths as described above. For each 5 second small breath holds, perform 10 relaxed diaphragmatic breaths for a period of not less than 5 minutes. This will certainly activate the parasympathetic nervous system, and prevent an anxiety attack.
- While undertaking these breathing exercises for anxiety, there are some key things that you need to keep in mind. Firstly, while you are breathing out, you should do so through the nose. Your in-breaths should not occur through the mouth. Secondly, you should be completely relaxed while undertaking these breathing exercises. You cannot calm your mind and reduce your breathing when your muscles are tense. This is because it is difficult to activate your diaphragm while your body is tense.
- Lastly, the small breath holds retain some carbon dioxide in the body. Contrary to popular belief, this gas is not completely useless, and it is required for regulation of some bodily functions. This is how relaxed, small breath holds helps to activate the parasympathetic nervous system and restore calm in the body. These breathing exercises for anxiety are easy to learn, and are quite effective in bringing equilibrium to the mind and body. If you suffer from chronic anxiety, you should try out these simple strategies to manage the problem.