Breathing is a necessity of life that usually occurs without much thought or awareness that we are breathing. Being mindful of your breathing will help reduce anxiety.
Breathing exercises are a type of stress relief strategy that can help you manage your anxiety. Breathing exercises simultaneously relax you (which helps to reduce feelings of anxiety) and increase your lung capacity, which can aid physical activities such as sports or work.
When we breathe in air, blood cells receive oxygen, and on the exhale we discharge carbon dioxide. Exhaling as much carbon dioxide as we can better enhance the circulation of oxygen throughout our bodies.
When we breathe improperly we increase our chances to experience anxiety, panic attacks, fatigue, and other emotional and physical disturbances. One breathing exercise to help reduce anxiety is square breathing. First responders, law enforcement, medical personnel as well as our military employ this technique.
Here are just some examples of breathing exercises:
Focus on a Square for 4 seconds
Do this exercise several times and you will find yourself less anxious and calmer. This is an anxiety technique that can be used anywhere and anytime to help us in our daily lives.
- Pick out a square object in the room (framed art, TV screen, a window)
- Look at the top of the square, and breathe in continuously for 4 seconds.
- Look at the left side of the square, hold your breath to a count of 4 seconds.
- Look at the bottom of the square and exhale completely to the count of 4 seconds.
- Hold your breath for another four seconds.
Create Mindful Pattern
Slowly inhale through your nose for four seconds, hold the air for two seconds, and then exhale slowly, through pursed lips, for six seconds. Repeat this 10-12 times.
Draw in a breath so that your abdomen expands, then release the breath fully from your mouth as if you were blowing out candles on a cake. This is called Diaphragmatic or ‘Belly’ Breathing. Repeat this 10-12 times.
Breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth as quickly as you can (panting). Do this for ten seconds. Then close your eyes and visualize something pleasant, such as a beach or the favorite place you go to when you need to relax. Imagine this as vividly as possible. Do this for 30 seconds, then resume the breathing exercise again. Repeat this about 4-5 times total.
Slowly inhale through your nose and exhale slowly through your pursed lips. This is called “Pursed-lip Breathing”. Repeat this 10-12 times.
Some people find the stress-releasing effect of breathing deeply very calming.
Many people will benefit from learning how to control their breathing, even if they never have anxiety attacks. By controlling your breath and concentrating on it going in and out of your nose, you are actually training your brain to do what is called “the relaxation response.”
The relaxation response is a state of deep physical and mental relaxation that is produced by controlled breathing. Controlled breathing, or deep breathing, has a direct and powerful effect on your body. The relaxation response is just the opposite of the “fight or flight” stress reaction. The effects are felt in multiple areas of your body including muscles release tension; blood pressure drops decreased muscle tension with slower, deeper breaths should release muscles and blood vessels, bringing down your heart rate.