Breathing Techniques for Anxiety

During an anxiety attack, our breathing rate and pattern changesWhere we would normally breath slowly from our lower lungs, we begin to breathe rapidly and shallowly from our upper lungs. This aids the fight or flight response as we can take in more oxygen, however, if during this time we are not physically exerting ourselves, then it can produce the phenomenon called hyperventilation.

This results in the many uncomfortable symptoms during panic: dizziness, shortness of breath, a lump in the throat, tingling or numbness in the hands or feet, nausea, or confusion. 

Luckily, changing your breathing can reverse these symptoms. By shifting your breathing rate and pattern, we can stimulate our bodies parasympathetic response. This is the body's equally powerful and opposite system to the Flight or Fight Response, it is often called the relaxation response or the rest and digest response.  

Natural Belly Breathing 

  1. Gently and slowly inhale through your nose, filling your lower lungs and belly. You might wish to first try it with one hand on your stomach and one on your chest initially. Your lower hand should rise while your upper hand stays still.  
  2. Exhale easily through your nose. As you exhale gently, your lower hand should fall as you empty your lower lungs 
  3. If possible, let your exhale last for one count longer than your inhale
  4. Continue this gentle natural breathing pattern, concentrating on filling the lower lungs and belly 

      Calming Breathing 

      1. Take a long, slow breath in through your nose, first filling your lower lungs, then your upper lungs. 
      2. Hold your breath to the count of 3 
      3. Exhale slowly through pursed lips, while you relax the muscles in your face, jaw, shoulders, and stomach. 

      Finger Breathing

      1. To start, take a big long breath in and a long breath out
      2. Take your index finger on your dominant hand and place at the base of you thumb.
      3. Move the finger of your dominant hand slowly up to the tip of your thumb  on the other hand, while taking a deep breath in.
      4. Breathe our while you trace your finger back down.
      5. Move on to your index finger. Breathe in while moving your finger up and breathe out while moving back down.
      6. Move on to your middle finger. Breathe in while moving your finger up and breathe out while moving back down.
      7. Continue on until you've traced your entire hand, and then work backwards.
      8. The aim is to move your finger as slowly as possible while matching your in and out breath.


      4-7-8 Breathing 

      1. Empty the lungs of air 
      2. Breathe in through the nose for 4 seconds 
      3. Hold the breath for a count of 7 seconds 
      4. Exhale forcefully through the mouth for 8 seconds 
      5. Repeat for 4 or 5 rounds


      Other Resources You May Be Interested In:

      What Causes Anxiety? 

      What Are The Different Types of Anxiety?

      How to Overcome Anxiety

      Can Our Thoughts Cause Anxiety?

      Cognitive Distortions Worksheet

      Circle of Control and Influence


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