Breathing techniques are often recommended for relaxation, stress relief, or anxiety attacks. When you breathe , your blood cells receive oxygen and release carbon dioxide. However, when people are anxious, they often take frequent, shallow breaths with their chest.
This type of breathing is called chest (chest) breathing, which can alter the levels of oxygen and carbon dioxide in the body, causing an increased heart rate, dizziness, muscle tension, and other physical sensations. This can indicate a stress response and contribute to anxiety and / or panic attacks.
The second type of breathing is called diaphragmatic (abdominal) breathing, where you take deep, even breaths. Abdominal breathing is more common in people who are asleep or in a relaxed state.
To determine your breathing pattern, place one hand on your upper abdomen near your waist and the other in the middle of your chest. As you breathe, notice which hand goes up the most. If you breathe properly, the hand on your stomach should go up and down with each breath .
Learn to manage stress and anxiety with simple breathing techniques.
Symptoms of an anxiety attack.
Anxiety attacks can manifest themselves differently for each person. Some of the common manifestations are feelings of tension or nervousness, inability to relax, anxiety about the past or future, feelings of fear, and inability to fall asleep. People can also experience increased alertness, agitation, irritability, and fatigue. Another sign of an anxiety attack is hyperventilation (rapid breathing) accompanied by sweating and / or shaking .
Deep abdominal breathing for 20 to 30 minutes each day reduces anxiety and stress, according to the American Stress Institute (AIS). Deep breathing increases the supply of oxygen to the brain and stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system, which promotes a state of calm. AIS recommends these certified deep breathing and imaging techniques :
This trick only takes six seconds:
- Smile inwardly with your eyes and mouth and release the tension in your shoulders.
- Imagine holes in the soles of your feet. As you breathe deeply, visualize the warm air passing through these holes, slowly moving up your legs, past your stomach, and filling your lungs.
- As you exhale, turn the visualization over to "see" the hot air coming out of the same openings in your feet.
Kids Teddy Bear Breath
This technique can be used by children:
- Lie on your back with one hand on your chest and place the teddy bear on your belly button.
- Close your eyes and relax your whole body.
- Inhale slowly through your nose. The bear must get up, but the chest must not.
- After taking a deep breath, hold your breath, count to 3, and then slowly exhale.
- Repeat until you feel relaxed.
This breathing technique was developed to help people fall asleep more easily . It was created by Dr. Andrew Weil, a physician and representative of holistic health and integrative medicine professionals.
The 4-7-8 breathing exercise, also called relaxation breathing, serves as a natural tranquilizer for the nervous system.
To perform the 4-7-8 method, sit up straight. However, if you are familiar with these steps, the exercise can be performed while lying in bed:
- Place the tip of the tongue against the ridge of tissue behind the upper front teeth and hold it throughout the exercise.
- Exhale completely through your mouth with a hiss.
- Close your mouth and silently inhale through your nose, mentally counting to 4.
- Hold your breath for a count of 7.
- Exhale completely through your mouth, whistling for a count of 8 .
Unlike medicinal sleeping pills , which lose their effectiveness over time, those who use the 4-7-8 technique dramatically improve their effectiveness with practice.
Another breathing exercise that can help fight insomnia and improve sleep is called mindful breathing. Mindfulness meditation involves focusing on your breathing and focusing your mind on the present without being distracted from worries about the past or future.
According to Dr. Hebert Benson of the Harvard Benson-Henry Institute of Mind and Body Medicine, breath control is an important part of mindfulness.
- Choose a relaxing accent. Good examples are your breathing, a sound ("om"), a short sentence, a positive word (such as "relax" or "peace"), or a phrase ("breathe calmly, exhale in tension"). If you choose a sound, repeat it out loud or silently as you inhale or exhale.
- Let it go and relax. When you notice that your mind is wandering, simply take a deep breath or repeat to yourself "think, think" and gently return your attention to your chosen focus .
The study, conducted by JAMA Internal Medicine , involved 49 middle-aged and elderly people who had trouble sleeping. Half of them completed a mindfulness program that taught them meditation and other exercises to help them focus on the moment. The other half took a sleep training course that taught them ways to improve their sleep habits. Compared to participants in the sleep training group, participants in the mindfulness group had less insomnia, fatigue, and depression at the end of all six sessions .
Another study involving 36 college students found that both mindful daily breathing and the practice of cognitive reappraisal helped reduce anxiety before testing. Additionally, conscious breathing and cognitive reassessment were effective in reducing anxiety when tested .
Breathing focus is another relaxation technique similar to mindful breathing that involves deep rhythmic breathing, mental detachment, and the use of a word or phrase to help the person focus .
Diaphragmatic breathing, or abdominal breathing, is designed to help you use your diaphragm correctly while breathing in order to reduce your work of breathing by slowing your breathing rate, reducing your oxygen demand, and using less effort and energy to breathe.
The next time you feel anxious, try this simple relaxation technique that you can do while standing, sitting, or lying down:
- Inhale slowly and deeply through your nose. Keep your shoulders relaxed. Your belly should expand and your chest should rise slightly.
- Breathe out slowly through your mouth. While blowing the air, purse your lips slightly, but keep your jaw relaxed. You can hear a soft hissing sound when you exhale.
- Repeat this breathing exercise. Do this for a few minutes until you feel better .
While rapid, shallow, unfocused breathing can contribute to many problems, including anxiety, increasing your lung control can bring many benefits to your physical and mental health. A 2018 review of the relevant scientific literature found that slow, deep breathing can help relieve symptoms of depression and anxiety, and it also appears to help relieve insomnia .
Interestingly, previous research has shown that a certain respiratory rate – about six breaths per minute – can be particularly restorative, triggering a relaxation response in the brain and body .
Experts understand slow breathing as any rate from 4 to 10 breaths per minute. The typical respiratory rate in humans is in the range of 10 to 20 breaths per minute .
Pursed-lip breathing is a breathing technique designed to make your breathing more efficient, slower, and more concentrated. After inhaling, purse your lips and exhale slowly and deliberately through them, often counting.
Pursed lip breathing has been shown to be beneficial for people with anxiety associated with lung conditions such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and emphysema. It can be done up to four or five times a day .
Here's how to do it:
- Relax your neck and shoulders.
- Breathe in slowly through your nostrils for 2 seconds (keep your mouth closed), no deep breath is needed, a normal inhale is fine.
- Exhale through your mouth for 4 seconds (longer is the key to success). As you exhale, pinch your mouth as if you are kissing.
- As you exhale, breathe in slowly and evenly; don't breathe hard.
Resonant breathing, also called coherent breathing, can help you calm anxiety and bring you to a relaxed state.
The study, with 15 participants, sought to evaluate the effects of yoga and breathing at a rate of five breaths per minute on depression symptoms and to determine the optimal yoga schedule for future research in people with major depressive disorder (MDD). During the 12-week intervention, depressive symptoms were significantly reduced in MDD patients in the high- and low-dose groups .
Here's how to perform resonant breathing:
- Lie down and close your eyes.
- Inhale gently through your nose with your mouth closed for up to 6 seconds. Don't fill your lungs with too much air.
- Exhale for 6 seconds, allowing your breath to slowly and gently come out of your body. Do not force it.
- Continue for up to 10 minutes.
- Take a few more minutes to relax and focus on the sensations in your body.
Yogic breathing exercises
By controlling the breath (a practice called pranayama ), the ancient yogis discovered that they could change their mental state. The effect of pranayama practice is achieved by slowing down and ordering the breath. This involves what scientists call the parasympathetic nervous system , a complex biological mechanism that soothes and calms us.
During times of stress, people tend to breathe too quickly, which can cause a change in the relative amount of carbon dioxide, which in turn upsets the ideal acid-base balance of the blood . This can lead to muscle spasms, nausea, irritability, dizziness, confusion, and anxiety.
Yogic breathing can help to achieve balance in both the body and the mind. Mind -body practices are increasingly used in the treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and are associated with positive effects on stress-related illnesses in humans. most of the existing research .
To experiment with consciously expanding your breath:
- Sit in a chair with a straight spine or lie on your back on the floor.
- Place your fingertips gently on the lower abdomen, just above the pubic bone, and try to direct your breath into this space, expanding your abdomen each time.
- Move your fingertips into the space under your collarbones, place the tips of your little finger on the sides of the breastbone, and extend the rest of your fingers to the sides.
- Take a few inhales and see if you can gently expand those spaces.
- Take care to keep your throat as smooth as possible because there is a counterproductive tendency to tighten it when inhaling into the upper chest.
- Breathe in as much as possible from the back of your body, feeling it inflate and then deflate with each breath .
Alternative breathing through the nostrils.
Alternative Nostril Breathing (ANB) is another breathing technique that you can do as part of your yoga or meditation practice, or on your own to help calm your mind .
In a study of 100 participants that examined the effect of ANB on the respiratory function of healthy young people in stressful lives, researchers found that respiratory function improved significantly after using this method .
Here's how to do it:
- Sit in a comfortable position with a long spine and relaxed hips.
- Release the tension in your jaw.
- Close your eyes.
- Place your left hand on your left knee, palm up.
- Place the tips of the index and middle fingers of your right hand on your forehead between your eyebrows, with your ring finger and little finger on your left nostril and your thumb on your right nostril.
- Use your ring finger and little finger to open and close the left nostril, and use your thumb to use the right nostril.
- As you breathe out, close your right nostril with your thumb and breathe out through your left nostril.
- Inhale through both nostrils, close the right nostril, and exhale through the left.
- Inhale through the left nostril and then close with the ring finger. Release your thumb on the right nostril and exhale through the right nostril.
- Inhale through the right nostril, close with the thumb, release the ring finger on the left side, and exhale through the left nostril.
Lion's breath, or simhasana in Sanskrit, is another beneficial breathing practice in yoga. You may think that sticking your tongue out and growling like a lion sounds strange, but research shows that it helps relax the muscles in your face and jaw. Some studies have shown that yoga breathing techniques, such as the lion's breath, can help relieve stress and improve cardiovascular function. In yoga, this is also known as the lion pose .
Here's how to make lion's breath:
- Find a comfortable sitting position.
- Lean forward slightly with your hands on your knees or on the floor.
- Spread your fingers as wide as you can.
- Breathe through your nose.
- Open your mouth wide, stick out your tongue and pull it towards your chin.
- Exhale vigorously, bringing the breath through the root of the tongue.
- As you exhale, make a "ha" sound coming from deep within your abdomen.
- Breathe normally for a few moments.
- Repeat the lion's breath up to 7 times.
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Slow, deep, rhythmic breathing exercises have been shown to positively affect anxiety and stress. They can be done throughout the day, alone or in a meditation or yoga group.