Practicing a breathing technique can help with managing anxiety and stress and with feelings of panic.
When we are anxious, our breathing can be shallow and fast. A breathing technique can help to slow breathing down, resulting in a reduction the symptoms of anxiety. For instance a racing heartbeat starts to slow and return to normal and tension is released from the body.
It can help to try and find a quiet, calm space or get out into the fresh air if you can.
This calming breathing technique for stress, anxiety and panic takes just a few minutes and can be done anywhere. You will get the most benefit if you do it regularly, as part of your daily routine.
Make yourself as comfortable as you can. You can do it standing up, sitting in a chair that supports your back, lying on your bed or a yoga mat on the floor. If you’re lying down, place your arms a little bit away from your sides, with the palms up.
Your legs can be straight, or you can bend your knees and put your feet flat on the ground if that feels more comfortable. If you’re sitting or standing, place both feet flat on the ground. Whatever position you’re in, place your feet roughly hip-width apart. If you’re sitting, put your arms on the arms of the chair if you can, otherwise let your hands sit on your lap.
Closing your eyes can help you focus on your breath without getting distracted by the things around you. If you prefer gently gaze at a spot on the floor, or the ceiling if you are lying down. If you can, try breathing in through your nose and out through your mouth but if you can’t it’s fine.
Place your hands just below your rib cage and try to let your breath flow. Without forcing it, breathe deeply into your body so that you can feel your hands being pushed apart slightly. If it helps, image a balloon in your belly, the shape, the size the colour and how the shape, size and colour changes as it inflates deflates with every breath.
Breathe in gently and regularly. Some people find it helpful to count steadily from 1 to 7 and breathe out counting from 1 to 11. If that doesn’t feel comfortable for you, try counting to 3 or 4 as you breathe in and 5 or 6 as you breathe out. It can help to extend the breath out for longer than the breath in.
Keep doing this for 3 to 5 minutes.
Your autonomic nervous system, which controls involuntary actions like heart rate and digestion, is split into two parts. One part, the sympathetic nervous system, controls your fight-or-flight response. The other part, the parasympathetic nervous system, controls your rest and relax response.
These two parts of your nervous system can’t be turned on at the same time, which means if you work to activate one, the other will be suppressed.
Breathing more deeply also allows for more carbon dioxide to enter your blood. This results in quietening down parts of the brain, like the amygdala, which handle your anxiety response. More carbon dioxide also helps synchronise your heartbeat and breathing.