6 Effective Breathing Exercises for Anxiety


Anxiety and stress are common, no thanks to hectic socio-political conditions. We huff and puff over everything: traffic jams, relationships, expectations, finances, and work.

According to science, people face or avoid crises. “Fight or flight” as a response mechanism. Results are deadly when the body keeps provoking this mechanism with less critical events.

We risk high blood pressure, which may lead to heart diseases. In some cases, weakened immune system or sensitivity to chills. Anxiety also causes depression.

Let’s face it. It’s difficult to avoid stress and struggles altogether. Then again, there are healthier ways to deal with or respond to them. Breathe! That’s right.

There are different breathing exercises. You can practice some of them to improve the state of mind and deal with anxiety effectively.

Deep breathing

Deep breathing exercises can boost oxygen supply to the brain. It also promotes calmness by stimulating the parasympathetic nervous system. You can do your deep breathing anywhere; in sitting, standing, or even in lying positions.

So, relax the tummy. Place one hand just below the diaphragm (muscle beneath the chest, separating the abdomen from it). Take in slow and deep breaths and watch the hand rise steadily. Breathe out through the mouth and watch the hand fall smoothly.

Slow breathing

Breathing Exercises for Anxiety

The slow breathing exercises help restore our focus after anxiety. It counteracts quick, shallow, and untrained breathing resulting from stress. Slow breath establishes absolute control over the lungs, accompanied by mental and health benefits. So, next time unfavorable circumstances cause your heart to race, take slow breaths.

Relaxing and therapeutic responses occur in the brain and body at a breathing rate of 6 puffs per minute. That’s according to a 2001 British Medical Journal paper. Experts peg the typical respiratory rate in humans between 10 and 20 breaths per minute. The slow breathing rate, on the contrary, ranges from 4 to 10 puffs per minute.

Breath focus

Deep breathing is focused and slowed during breath focus. However, it’s yet another technique for maximizing relaxation, appropriate while resting in quiet and comfy locations.

Take regular and rhythmic breathing exercises (in and out), and make sure to feel it. Take a deep breath in, but slowly, through your nose. Observe the abdominal region (lower and upper diaphragm) expand altogether. Exhale slowly – either through the nose or mouth as convenient for you.

Keep doing this for several minutes, focusing on the upward and downward movement of your midsection. You can say a word during exhalation, such as “calm” or “safe.” Bring the mind back to the vocalized word and breath when it wanders. It is relaxing and relieving.

Diaphragmatic breathing

It’s almost the same as deep breathing, though it focuses on expanding and contracting the upper and lower diaphragm. In this case, the diaphragm moves downwards to create a partial vacuum in the chest cavity (hollow space protected by ribs).

The movement forces the lungs to expand and fill the void, drawing air in the process. The hollow pushes towards the pelvis, giving room for the chest cavity to extend downwards. It is often known as belly breathing.

Mindful breathing

This form of breathing uses mindfulness meditation to focus on the present moment. Practicing mindful breathing requires you to sit or lie down, either with open or closed eyes. It continues as follows:

Carefully take in air through your nose. Observe the tummy expand. Puff it out slowly through the mouth. Concentrate on the practice once you feel settled into it. Feel the belly rise and fall while the air gradually builds up in your lower diaphragm and extends below.

Let abstract thoughts that come into your mind go without judgment. Always remember to bring attention back to your breath. Continue in that state until you feel calm. Then, you begin to become aware of how the body and mind feel.

4-7-8 breathing

Designed by Dr. Andrew Weil, this breathing technique helps you fall asleep with ease. Also known as the relaxing breath, it calms the nervous system naturally. Performing this breathing exercise requires you to sit, keeping a straight back, or lie down. Do what feels comfortable, and you can proceed like this:

Place the tip of your tongue against the ridge of your front teeth all through this exercise. Empty your lungs through your mouth. With a closed mouth, inhale through your nose and count 1 to 4 in your mind. Then, hold your breath for seven counts. Lastly, exhale from your mouth in a whoosh sound, counting from 5 till you get to 8.

Hey Joyfreshers, do you manage anxiety with breathing exercises? Tell us about how these relaxation techniques will help you reduce stress and anxiety.

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