Thursday, 13 June 2013

Breathing Exercises to Calm Yourself Down

Breathing is the most important thing we do. We breathe to live. We will die if we have no access to oxygen for about 4 minutes. 

But besides our necessity of it for survival, breathing has much more uses to man. One of which is to relieve anxiety.

When a person suffers from anxiety disorder, it may be noticeable that his/her breathing habit is affected. 

This change can be felt as one of the following: shallow or quick breathing, monitored breathing (thinking about one’s breathing too much), and over-breathing (because of the feeling that the person is not getting enough air). 

These poor respiration habits may lead to Hyperventilation – which is responsible for causing anxiety attack symptoms such as the rapid beating of the heart and chest pains. 

Thus, to help alleviate a patient suffering from anxiety, the person should learn to improve the way he/she breathes.

Recommended Breathing Exercises:

CO2 Breathing – Hyperventilation gives one the impression that he/she is not taking in enough oxygen. Contrary to that, the body is actually getting more of it and now lacks of carbon dioxide. To do this, cup your hands over your mouth and take your time breathing. This could also be done using a small paper bag.

Deep Breathing for Relaxation – Breathing deeply is great for managing feelings of elevated stress or anxiety. The controlled breathing, along with distancing oneself from taxing environments, help soothe the body and mind. 

The simplest way to do this is first by sitting upright with your arms on top of the armrests. Calmly and deeply inhale through your nose for about five to six seconds, hold for a few more, and finally exhale for about seven seconds. 

Do this for around ten repetitions at first, and then gradually increase as you learn to better handle the exercise. (The anxiety guide Panic Away goes into this in great detail.)

Belly Breathing – This method not only helps in clearing the mind but also cleanses the lungs as well. When starting, allow your right hand to rest atop your chest while your other hand is above your stomach. Then, take a deep and slow breath. Make sure that your left hand becomes more elevated than your right hand. 

Upon exhaling, ensure that every bit of air exit your lungs as you begin another cycle. Do this for around five repetitions. As you progress, you may try removing your hands and utter short and simple words as you breathe.

Cooling Breath – This technique is taken from the pranayama yoga practice. This is done by slightly opening your mouth and curling your tongue upwards. Try to make it look like you are going to pronounce the letter ‘L’ (see video below).

Then, take a slow breath and experience the cool air that pass through the base of your tongue. Hold your breath for a few seconds and gradually release the air through your nose. You can do this as much as you like so that you can feel cooler and calmer afterwards.

Benefits of Breathing Exercises

There are so many benefits in doing these breathing exercises. 

First and foremost, it does not cost anything for a person to perform them. It would be a great save of money if his/her anxiety condition would not escalate to the point of needing prescribed medications nor expensive therapies. 

Secondly, these practices are very simple to do. One does not need to travel elsewhere or do tedious tasks to complete these exercises. 

Lastly, they are not time consuming at all. This is a great help for people with many responsibilities. So, for those who think they are starting to experience anxiety problems, these exercises would be a fine way to begin.

Photo credit:

 "White lips, pale face” by Martinak/Flickr

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