Deep Breathing Exercises for Anxiety - Anxiety Breathing Techniques

Deep Breathing Exercises for Anxiety - Anxiety Breathing Techniques

Anxiety Disorders » Deep Breathing Exercises for Anxiety Anxiety Breathing Techniques

Deep Breathing Exercises for Anxiety Anxiety Breathing Techniques

You werent born an over-breather; you learned it. You can also unlearn it and train yourself to breathe normally. The following deep breathing exercise will help teach you to slow down your breathing and to breathe from your abdomen, or diaphragm.

This will increase the amount of oxygen getting to your brain and muscles and stimulate your parasympathetic nervous system (PSN) to override your sympathetic nervous system (SNS), thereby inviting the relaxation response to take over.

If you take yoga class, you will probably recognize this exercise as ujjayi breathing.

How to do Diaphragmatic & Anxiety Breathing Exercises:

1.  Lie down, close your eyes and note the tension youre feeling and your breathing pattern. (If youre chronically stressed, youve become accustomed to feeling overanxious and take it for granted. Its important to become aware of how your breathing pattern reflects your level of tension.)

2.  Place one hand on your abdomen, beneath your rib cage, and the other on your chest.

Sixty percent of all panic attacks are accompanied by acute hyperventilation.

3.  Place the tip of your tongue against the back of your top front teeth. Inhale slowly and deeply through your nose to the count of four or five (one thousand, two thousand), creating a yawning sensation in the back of your nose and throat and expanding your abdomen like a balloon.

Your hand should rise as you feel your navel rise to the ceiling. You should hear your breath filling your lungs and rising up to where your throat and the back of your nose meet and you should feel your throat vibrating. Your chest should move only slightly while your abdomen expands.

If you only feel your belly expand without the sensation of air rising up to where your throat and the back of your nose meet, you are breathing incorrectly.

4. Place the tip of your tongue behind your bottom front teeth. With slightly pursed lips, breathe out through your mouth, slowly pushing the stale air out of your lungs to the count of five (if you breathed in on four), or six or seven (if you breathed in on five).

Dont force it. Feel your navel collapse towards the floor, minimizing your upper chest motion. The hand on your chest should stay as still as possible. Be sure to squeeze all the air out of your lungs and allow your whole body to just let go.

You can also breathe out though your mouth, emphasizing the exhalation by making a hah sound with your mouth open and relaxed.

5. Pause briefly at the end of the exhalation and let your next inhalation begin on its own.

6. Do at least ten full abdominal breaths slowly and smoothly, prolonging your exhale. Slowly increase the amount to forty cycles a session. Take a few regular breaths between ten breath cycles.

If you are anxious, it is not a good idea to do breathing exercises in which you hold your breath briefly on the inhale.

Holding your breath extends SNS arousal, which you dont want to do, while pausing following exhalation extends PNS arousal, which will help prolong a feeling of calm.

Why You Should Do Diaphragm Exercises for Your Anxiety:

If you spend three to ten minutes a day (10 to 40 breathing cycles), twice a day doing this exercise, you should begin to feel less jittery, and experience fewer early symptoms of panic. If you are having severe symptoms, panic, or agoraphobia, you may need to do it for longer periods and more often.

Regular practice of deep breathing will increase your lung capacity and help you breathe more deeply—when my yoga teacher, who has been doing Ujjayi breathing for years, demonstrates it, you can hear her lungs fill, like a surge of wind, from the back of a large room.

As your lung capacity increases, you will be able to train yourself to breathe between 8 and 12 times per minute. This in turn will greatly increase your energy level.

If you find yourself unable to slow down your breathing, dont be discouraged. If you hyperventilate, breath control does not come easy. And its hard to breathe properly when youre overanxious. Try taking a yoga class, which incorporates breathing exercises.

At home, try relaxing your muscles through progressive relaxation before you get out of bed in the morning. This will automatically slow down your breathing and allow you to begin your deep breathing exercise.

If during the deep breathing exercise you find the need to catch your breath, this will subside. You want to breathe in quickly because your brain is telling you that you are suffocating. And, since it takes a few minutes for the symptoms associated with hyperventilating to subside, the pause after the exhalation again triggers a perception that you are suffocating.

Try to breathe slowly and deeply, but gently. The more vigorous or forced your breathing, the more you may become light-headed—an indication of a rapid lowering of carbon dioxide levels. If this happens, stop briefly and then start again.

The Roles of Different Parts of Your Body:

If light-headedness continues, its probably because the muscles involved in breathing, namely the chest, diaphragm and, for some people, the throat muscles, remain tense. The following exercises will help relax your chest, diaphragm and throat muscles:

1.  Square your shoulders and bend your elbows so your forearms are straight out in a 90-degree angle, like a puppy begging for food.

2.  Try to touch your shoulder blades together and hold the tension felt in your chest muscles for three seconds (one thousand, two).

3.  Release the tension and relax your chest.

4.  Repeat three to five more times until you feel your chest area relaxed.

Research has found that the moment your fingers rest on a computer keyboard, most people brace with their upper bodies. While typing, they chest breathe and breathe quickly.

1.  Suck your stomach in and up under your rib cage.

2.  Hold the tension for five seconds.

3.  Release the tension and relax your stomach.

1.  Point your chin toward the ceiling, stretching the throat muscles as much as you can.

2.  Place your tongue in the roof of your mouth and push with your tongue as hard as you can.

3.  Hold the tension for five seconds.

4.  Release the tension and relax your throat.

5.  Repeat three to five times, or until you feel the tension in your throat muscles dissipate.

Shifting the center of your breathing from your chest to your abdomen, so you can breathe diaphragmatically easily and spontaneously on an on-going basis, will take time and effort. Dont forget, you havent used these muscles in a long time.

They need to be developed again. So, have patience. But once learned, you should be able to re-train your nervous system to an overall more relaxed state. And you will begin to be able to monitor your level of stress and self-calm before you get locked into anxietys grip.

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