Anxiety is a common issue that affects so many people these days. From everyday stressors to larger life events, anxiety can impact various aspects of your life causing you to feel overwhelmed and out of control. While it’s important to seek professional help when needed, there are some simple practices you can incorporate into your daily routine to cope with anxiety. One effective tool is breathing exercises for anxiety.
Why are deep breaths beneficial?
It’s natural to take breathing for granted. We do it automatically and without much thought. However, the act of conscious breathing can have a profound effect on our mental and physical health. Deep breathing techniques are effective, in part, because they stimulate the relaxation response in the body.
When we’re anxious, our body goes into fight or flight mode, resulting in increased heart rate, shallow breathing, and muscle tension. And let’s face it, we are pretty much in fight or flight all the time in today’s Western culture. Conscious and intentional deep breathing can reverse this response and help calm us down by slowing down our heart rate and relaxing our muscles.
Benefits of Breathing Deep
Deep breathing has many benefits beyond just calming anxiety. Some benefits include:
Improved Oxygen Delivery
Deep breathing increases the amount of oxygen that reaches your organs and muscles, allowing them to function more efficiently and effectively. It also helps to transport essential hormones and nutrients throughout the body, increasing overall health and wellness.
Reduced stress levels
Breathwork is known for its calming effect on the mind and body. By focusing on your breath and breathing deeply, you can reduce stress levels throughout the body and mind. This relaxation technique helps to slow down your heart rate, lower blood pressure, and release feel-good hormones like serotonin and oxytocin.
Deep breathing is a great tool for managing distractions and improving focus. It helps keep the mind clear of unwanted thoughts and allows you to focus on the task at hand. It also helps to reduce anxiety and stress levels, which can be distracting and prevent us from performing our best.
Improved physical performance
Deep breathing can help improve physical performance by increasing oxygen levels in your body. Proper oxygen delivery helps muscles perform better and improves your endurance while exercising. It also helps to reduce fatigue and increase energy.
Proper breathing can help to regulate the digestive system, which is important for overall health. Gut health is slowly making it to the front line in terms of people recognizing the importance of maintaining a healthy gut. I’m not going to get into gut health in this article, but it is worth noting that it is definitely not something you want to ignore.
Breathing deep can help move food through the digestive tract, relieves constipation, and reduces bloating. Deep breathing also helps to relax the muscles of the abdomen and intestines, improving digestion even further.
Increased energy levels
Deep breathing helps to increase the flow of oxygen throughout your body, which in turn increases energy levels. This can make you feel more energized and alert, allowing you to perform better throughout the day. It’s also a great way to combat fatigue and ensure that you have enough energy for daily tasks and activities.
Deep breathing helps to promote the flow of lymph fluid, which carries important infection-fighting cells and hormones throughout the body. This increased circulation helps your body fight off viruses and bacteria more efficiently, boosting your overall immunity. It also helps to reduce inflammation throughout the body, which in turn can help prevent illness.
Improved mental health
Deep breathing can be a powerful tool for improving overall mental health. It helps to reduce stress levels, allowing you to feel more relaxed and balanced. It also reduces anxiety and depression symptoms, promoting feelings of calmness and clarity. In addition, deep breathing helps to increase circulation in the brain, which can improve concentration and memory.
Deep breathing can help to relax the body and mind, making it easier to fall asleep. It also helps to reduce stress levels and calm the nervous system, allowing you to drift off into a restful night’s sleep. Regular practice of deep breathing can also help improve the quality of your sleep, leaving you feeling more refreshed in the morning.
Breathing Exercises for Anxiety
Here are some simple yet effective breathing exercises you can try the next time you feel anxious or overwhelmed:
Diaphragmatic breathing, also known as belly breathing or deep breathing, is a technique that involves breathing deeply from the abdomen rather than shallowly from the chest. This type of breathing engages the diaphragm muscle, which is located in the lower part of the chest and helps to increase oxygen intake while reducing stress and tension in the body.
Diaphragmatic breathing has been shown to have numerous health benefits, including reducing blood pressure, improving digestion, and boosting the immune system. It is also a useful tool for managing anxiety and stress, as it promotes relaxation and helps to calm the mind.
Practicing diaphragmatic breathing can be done anywhere and at any time, making it an easy and accessible technique for anyone to incorporate into their daily routine.
Sit or lie down with your hands on your belly. Inhale through your nose, letting your belly expand. Exhale through your mouth, allowing your belly to deflate.
Counting breaths is a breathing technique that involves focusing on the breath and counting each inhale and exhale in a rhythmic pattern. By doing so, it helps to calm the mind and slow down racing thoughts. Counting breaths also promotes diaphragmatic breathing, which allows more oxygen to be taken in by the body and helps to reduce stress and tension.
This technique can be done anywhere and at any time, making it an accessible tool for managing anxiety and stress in everyday life. It is also customizable, as the counting pattern can be adjusted to suit individual needs.
Count to four as you inhale, hold your breath for two seconds, then exhale for four counts. Repeat for several minutes.
Box breathing, also known as square breathing or four-square breathing, is a deep breathing technique that involves inhaling deeply for a count of four, holding the breath for a count of four, exhaling for a count of four, and then holding the breath again for a count of four. It is called “box breathing” because the pattern forms the shape of a square or a box.
This technique also promotes diaphragmatic breathing, which allows for more oxygen to enter the body and helps to reduce stress and tension. By focusing on the breath and the counting pattern, box breathing can help to calm the mind and slow down racing thoughts.
It can be done anywhere and at any time, making it easily accessible for individuals looking to manage their anxiety and stress levels.
Inhale for four counts, hold for four counts, exhale for four counts, and hold for four counts. Repeat for several minutes.
Alternate Nostril Breathing
Alternate nostril breathing, also known as Nadi Shodhana Pranayama, is a breathing technique that involves using the fingers to block one nostril while inhaling through the other, then switching and exhaling through the opposite nostril.
This style of breathing helps to balance the left and right sides of the brain, which promotes overall relaxation and reduces anxiety. It also encourages diaphragmatic breathing, which allows for more oxygen to enter the body and helps to reduce stress and tension.
With regular practice, alternate nostril breathing can help to calm the mind and promote a sense of inner peace. It is important to note that this technique should be practiced with care, as it can cause dizziness or lightheadedness in some individuals. If you experience any discomfort while practicing alternate nostril breathing, it is best to stop and consult with a healthcare professional.
Inhale through your left nostril, hold for a few seconds, then exhale through your right nostril. Repeat the process, alternating nostrils.
Being Present in the Moment
In addition to breathing exercises, it’s important to be present in the moment. Anxiety often stems from ruminating on past events or worrying about the future. Practicing mindfulness can help you stay grounded in the present and overcome anxious thoughts. Try to engage in activities that bring you joy and focus on the present moment. This could be something as simple as reading a book or taking a walk in nature.
A Simple Tool For Anxiety
While not breathing related, below you can find a simple tool for dealing with anxiety that I have found to be particularly helpful!
Lastly, I highly recommend checking out WimHof if you are interested in diving deep into breathwork and its amazing benefits. It has done wonders for me personally.
In general, though, incorporating breathing exercises into your daily routine can do wonders for your mental and physical health. Remember to be gentle with yourself and practice self-compassion as you explore these techniques. Take a few moments each day to practice deep breathing, be present in the moment, and let go of your thoughts. With regular practice, you’ll experience greater calm, clarity, and inner peace.