When we’re anxious, our heart rate increases, blood pressure rises, muscles tense up, and it feels like every single cell in our body is working overtime. Our brains release stress hormones that make us feel even worse, and sometimes we even find ourselves holding our breath.
But there are ways to calm down and relax. Here are some breathing exercises for anxiety you can practice anytime to help ease tension and relieve anxiety. You don’t need equipment or special skills – just follow along and surrender to the magic of breathwork.
Try these breathing exercises for anxiety
The way we breathe affects our health. We all know that too much stress can cause us to suffer from anxiety, depression, heart disease, insomnia, weight gain, headaches, etc. But did you know that even the way you breathe can affect your physical well-being? In fact, many people are unaware of just how important proper breathing is to their overall health.
In addition to keeping you healthy, breathing correctly can help you relax. When you breathe deeply, you release tension and feel calmer. This is because deep breaths stimulate blood flow throughout the body and lower levels of stress hormones. Deep breathing also helps clear the mind and focus attention. Here are a few breathing techniques for anxiety.
Lengthen your exhale
Studies show that inhaling deeply can trigger a reaction in the autonomic nervous system called the “sympathetic nervous system,” which controls the fight-and-flight response. This response makes sense because inhaling causes blood vessels to dilate, increasing blood flow to muscles and organs. If we take a deep breath, we could experience increased heart rate and blood pressure.
But what about when we exhale? Exhaling triggers a different part of the autonomic nervous system known as the “parasympathetic nervous system.” This system is responsible for relaxing our bodies and slowing down our heart rates. So while inhaling may increase our heart rate and blood pressure, exhaling slows those things down.
That’s why experts say that lengthening your exhalation helps you calm yourself down. By doing so, you’re triggering the parasympathetic nervous system.
Equalize your inhale with your exhale
Equal breathing is a breathing technique from the ancient practice of Pranayama. In this technique, we are taught to take long slow breaths while counting each breath. Some people find it easier to begin with three, while others start with five or any other number that they are capable of sustaining. Whatever number feels natural to you, just remember to keep counting. Just remember that each inhale should last as long as the exhale.
As we do this, our breathing begins to become slower and deeper. Between each inhale and exhale, we allow ourselves to relax into the next breath. Your attention is undivided and directed to counting your breaths, so you can’t focus on your anxious thoughts. And here too, your body naturally relaxes as you exhale progressively longer and deeper.
Breathe through your belly
Another popular form of deep breathing is belly breathing, or abdominal breathing. In this technique, you inhale through your nose and exhale through your mouth. As you do this, you allow your stomach to expand outward, like a balloon. Then, as you exhale, your stomach flattens out.
This allows the air to flow more deeply into your system, as opposed to the fast and shallow breaths we take when we’re anxious. It also helps to calm your nervous system by increasing oxygen levels in your body.
You can practice this exercise by lying down on your back with your knees bent. Place one hand over your abdomen and the other over your chest. As you breathe in and out, your hands should move up and down following your breathing.
Breath Masters’ breathing techniques for anxiety
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