Breathe Your Way Through Anxious Moments

Anxiety can be so overwhelming that it is easy to forget that there are things you can actively do to combat it. One simple technique that many people find helpful is deep breathing, a surprisingly effective method of attacking anxiety before it gets out of control.

Deep breathing is more than big breaths--it is a specific method of breathing that works to relax your body and control anxiety symptoms. You should practice the technique for a week or so at times when you aren’t feeling particularly anxious before using it in a time of high anxiety.

How to do deep breathing

To practice, lie flat on your back with one hand on your stomach and one on your chest. This hand placement will help you determine whether you're breathing correctly--your stomach should expand, but your chest and shoulders should not move at all. This feels a bit unnatural for most people at first but will become easier with practice.
Breathe in through your nose, counting silently to yourself. Inhale deeply, but only as much as is comfortable. Exhale through your mouth for the same number of counts as your inhale, and then repeat.

Your goal is to increase your inhale count by at least two (so if you start at a 3, you should keep going until you get to a 5), which is an indication that your body has become more relaxed. The actual number doesn't matter, only that it gets bigger.

When to use deep breathing

Once you're comfortable with the technique, try deep breathing whenever you feel the start of anxiety symptoms. If you're anxious all the time, stop several times throughout the day to practice deep breathing. You don't have to do it for any great length of time--just until you've increased your breaths in by a count of two, or until you feel calmer.

Photo: Max Pixel

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