During an anxiety attack, our breathing rate and pattern changes. Where 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 you 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, and is often called the relaxation response.
Natural Belly Breathing
- 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.
- Exhale easily through your nose. As you exhale gently, your lower hand should fall as you empty your lower lungs
- If possible, let your exhale last for one count longer than your inhale
- Continue this gentle natural breathing pattern, concentrating on filling the lower lungs and belly
- Take a long, slow breath in through your nose, first filling your lower lungs, then your upper lungs.
- Hold your breath to the count of 3
- Exhale slowly through pursed lips, while you relax the muscles in your face, jaw, shoulders, and stomach.
- Empty the lungs of air
- Breathe in through the nose for 4 seconds
- Hold the breath for a count of 7 seconds
- Exhale forcefully through the mouth for 8 seconds
- Repeat for 4 or 5 rounds