Contrary to popular beliefs, anxiety isn’t something that positive thinking can cure. When dealing with anxiety, it may originate with a thought, but you can experience it throughout the body in very physical ways.
When you feel stressed, where do you feel it in your body?
Perhaps you start to get a headache. Maybe your stomach starts to feel butterflies. Your heart beats faster, and you notice that you don’t feel like you can slow your breathing.
Breathwork can help to target your respiratory system and those physical sensations associated with stress and anxiety, such as:
Tightness in your chest.
Shortness of breath.
And feeling like you’re suffocating.
Here are three of our favorite breathwork techniques to help soothe the physical reaction to stress and reduce your anxiety.
Slow down when you exhale.
Did you know that inhaling works with the part of your body that contains your sympathetic nervous system? It’s where your body controls fight or flight responses.
Exhalation works with your parasympathetic nervous system, which helps us relax and calm down.
So, instead of calming down by gulping in big, slow breaths and possibly contributing to hyperventilation, try exhaling longer than you inhale.
You can try this technique in any way that feels comfortable - sitting, standing, or lying down. The idea is to focus on your breath as it leaves your body rather than entering it. Imagine taking a breath and then deliberately emptying your lungs of every bit of oxygen.
You can start by counting to three as you inhale, then count to five on the exhale. Try it for two minutes, then work on this technique for up to five minutes at a time.
Be mindful of your breathing.
Because you’re constantly breathing every day, it’s easy not to think about it as a process. Try becoming present with the sensations involved with breathing to slow down your anxiety symptoms.
Choose a quiet space without distractions to try this technique.
You can breathe in a seated position or lie down.
Please take a few normal breaths and notice what it feels like. Feel the air moving in through your nostrils. Put both hands on your stomach, feel it rise with your inhalation, and fall with your exhalation.
As you exhale, choose a word or sound to vocalize. A sound like “om” or phrases like “loved” or “safe” can help. Imagine taking in those words with each inhale and exhaling the anxious feelings.
When you notice other thoughts popping up, be gentle with yourself and refocus on your breath and your sound or word of the day. Practice for up to 20 minutes a day.
Try equal or 4-4-4 breathing.
Working on equal breathing means inhaling and exhaling for the same amount of time.
Again, start by putting yourself in a comfortable position, either sitting or lying down.
Notice your normal breathing for a few breaths. Then close your eyes.
Breathe in for a count of four, and then exhale for the exact count as you feel your lungs expand and retract. Your number can change as you count, but the key is to keep your breathing equal.
Ask for help when you need it.
Try any or all of these techniques when you start to feel the effects of anxiety to help slow your breathing and give you something in the present moment to focus on.
If you notice that daily stress triggers more anxiety and panic attacks, we’re here to help! Book a call with us, and we can work together to get you on the path to healing.