Work, traffic, family, friends, appointments, a busy schedule, and all kinds of unexpected situations. When you realize you are already disorganized, you feel agitated and worry becomes constant in your mind: anxiety has taken over! Many will advise you to take it easy, count to three and take a deep breath … Whoever says it is right! Inspiration is more connected to the active autonomic nervous system, called sympathetic, while exhalation is connected to the calming side of the autonomic nervous system called parasympathetic. Learn how to breathe properly and reduce anxiety with these 7 breathing techniques.
Breathing will help you in two ways.
- The first is physiological since the state of anxiety activates areas of the brain that stimulate hyperventilation, that is, we inhale the air more quickly and more shallowly, and the conscious effort to change this helps to calm down, as the organism returns to your balance.
- Another point is in the fact that the individual when making his breathing conscious, brings his attention to the present moment, and the state of anxiety tends to be minimized.
It’s possible to see through your breath that you are anxious. When breathing is focused on the upper part of the body, and it’s faster and shorter. Feeling short of breath is also a classic sign that you are not breathing as you should.
Breathing Techniques That Send Anxiety Away
The breathing pattern of someone who is tired is different from the breathing pattern of someone who is sleeping, which on the other hand is different from the breathing pattern of a pregnant woman. Thus, you must give the respiratory mechanism all the conditions so that it makes the necessary adjustments for each situation. The important thing is that normal breathing is done using the muscles of the diaphragm, that is, moving the abdomen and not the chest. The ideal breathing should be slower and deeper with inspiratory and expiratory pauses, effortless and natural.
Knowing this, we can move on to the breathing techniques!
Starting with the basics
To improve breathing as a whole, it is worth investing in stretching the chest and abdomen, to gain space and consciousness. Taking a few moments to breathe slowly also helps. The exercise should take 3 to 7 minutes and the process should be done through the nose only. Try letting exhalation last longer than the inhalation. It’s important to feel the chest and abdominal expansion slowly and smoothly, whether you’re going to feel the abdomen expand first or the chest expands first or if you’re going to expand everything over the same time. Breathe to the stretched part and feel yourself, your intercostal muscles, your abdomen, and the overall sensation this practice conveys.
Breathe through the diaphragm
Training this type of breathing is important and helps to regulate the body and the nervous system. But there is no point in just expanding and contracting the abdomen while breathing, without breathing slowly, deeply, and observing your own movement. The diaphragm lowers in its contraction on inspiration, causing a natural projection of the viscera forward. It is important to observe if the ribs also rise across the entire circumference of the chest, causing it to rise. The shoulders shouldn’t go up in the process, if they do so you aren’t breathing properly. Expand completely and bring mobility and fluidity into your structure. Feel yourself and be completely present.
Practice lying abdominal breathing
Before going to sleep, if anxiety is preventing sleep from coming while lying in bed and with the lights off, place one hand on your abdomen and the other on your chest. Count while you breathe, to create a rhythm. You can inhale by counting to four in our mind and exhale by counting to four, always through the nostrils.
Dr. Belisa Vranich, psychologist, and author of “Breathe” explains a breathing technique that will calm you down, even in the most stressful of situations — like a battlefield!
Practice square breathing
This breathing technique includes more than just inhaling and exhaling, there is a pause before each of these actions. It is called square breathing because all steps are done with the same length of time. Let the air enter your body, while you count slowly to three. Hold the air in your lungs, always counting slowly to three. Then, release the air slowly, counting to three. After exhaling, keep yourself breathless, slowly counting to three also. You can vary time increasing it but always keeping the same counting for all the steps.
Practice elongated exhalation
Breathing with an expiratory predominance can calm you down. You can adapt the previous exercise, the square breathing, but you double the time when you release the air, in this case counting to six at that moment. On a daily basis too, even without pauses, you can always try to breathe out twice as long as you inhale, without the pauses holding your breath and keeping yourself out of it, in case you feel anxiety is taking over.
This technique is very simple to do and very relaxing. To do it, sit in a comfortable chair and throw your torso forward, resting it on your thighs, you can put a pillow if that makes you more comfortable. The arms and head are loose towards the ground. In this posture the abdomen will be compressed by the support, the respiratory movement is taken to the back. Stay as long as you feel comfortable and attentive when returning. The return movement starts at the lumbar and goes up vertebra by vertebra, being the head the last one that aligns. Remember to keep your spine straight at all times.
Alternate nostril breathing (Nadi Shodhana)
Another technique to do in any of the above exercises or in order to calm down is to breathe through one nostril at a time. Alternate nostril breathing is a type of yogic breathing or Pranayama, where you inhale through one nostril and exhale through another, using your index finger to cover each nostril at a time. Then, the nostril that released the air should be used to pull it, alternating the order at each moment. This will make you calm down, as you end up focusing all your concentration on the method and its application, and it also applies when the nose is clogged.
Attention: If your anxiety interferes severely with daily activities, talk with your doctor. Serious forms of anxiety need a multi-disciplined approach, medical treatment and/or psychological counseling (psychotherapy) for symptoms to improve.