Anxiety is the body’s normal response to stress. It’s part of the “fight or flight” response that occurs when someone is faced with a real or perceived physical or emotional threat.

Anxiety may energize you or help you focus. But for people with anxiety, fear is not temporary and can be overwhelming. In such cases, doctors tend to recommend trying breathing exercises.

Breathing exercises are often used to help people relax or cope with stress. They can be important because people with anxiety tend to breathe fast, shallow breaths through their chest. This pattern can disrupt oxygen and carbon dioxide levels that normally balance when you breathe. Breathing exercises can help people slow their heart rate and feel calm.

Chest vs. Abdominal Breathing

Most people aren’t really aware of the way they breathe, but there are usually two modes of breathing:

Diaphragmatic (abdominal) breathing: This is the natural way a newborn breathes. You may also use this breathing pattern when you are in a relaxed sleep phase. This breath is a deep and even breath that engages your diaphragm, causing your lungs to expand and create negative pressure, which pushes air in through your nose and mouth, filling your lungs with air.

Chest (chest) breathing: This type of breathing comes from the chest and is short and rapid. When you’re feeling anxious, you may not even realize that you’re breathing this way.

The easiest way to determine your breathing pattern is to place one hand on your midsection near your waist and the other in the middle of your chest. As you breathe, notice which hand goes up the most.

It’s especially important to be aware of these differences during stressful and anxious times when you’re more likely to breathe from your chest. If you’re panting from anxiety, you can try some breathing techniques to relieve the symptoms and start feeling better.

Deep Breathing

Deep belly breathing for 20 to 30 minutes a day can reduce anxiety and stress. Deep breathing increases oxygen supply to the brain. It also stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system and promotes a calm state.

4-7-8 breathing

The 4-7-8 breathing exercise, also known as relaxed breathing, is a natural sedative of the nervous system. To try 4-7-8, start by sitting up straight. Once you’re familiar with these steps, you can also practice them in bed.

1.Exhale through your mouth, making a hissing sound.

2.Close your mouth and breathe in through your nose for a count of four.

3.Hold your breath for a count of seven.

4.Exhale through your mouth for a count of 8 and hiss.

5.Inhale and repeat three times.

Diaphragmatic Breathing

Diaphragm or abdominal breathing is designed to help you use the diaphragm as you breathe. It is a muscle that separates the chest from the abdomen. This allows you to use less effort and energy to breathe. It helps slow down your breathing rate and reduces your body’s need for oxygen.

1.Breathe in slowly and deeply through the nose. Keep your shoulders relaxed. Your abdomen should dilate and your chest should rise very little.

2.Exhale slowly through your mouth. As you blow out, press your lips slightly, but keep your chin relaxed. On the exhale, you may hear a soft “whooshing” sound.

3.Repeat this breathing exercise. Do this for a few minutes until you start to feel better.

Box Breathing

Box breathing, also known as square breathing, is a technique used to breathe deeply and slowly. It can improve performance and concentration, as well as being a powerful stress reliever.

1.Exhale to a count of four.

2.Hold your lungs empty for a four count.

3.Inhale to a count of four.

4.Hold air in your lungs for a count of four.

5.Exhale and begin the pattern anew.

Pursed-Lip Breathing

The purpose of lip breathing is to make your breathing more efficient. This breathing technique will help make your breathing slower and more conscious. Lip contractions have been shown to help people with anxiety disorders related to lung disease.

1.Sit in a comfortable position, with your neck and shoulders relaxed.

2.Keeping your mouth closed, inhale slowly through your nostrils for two seconds.

3.Exhale through your mouth for four seconds, puckering your mouth as if giving a kiss.

4.Keep your breath slow and steady while breathing out.

Lion’s Breath

Lion’s breath, or simhasana in Sanskrit, during which you stick out your tongue and roar like a lion, is another helpful deep breathing practice. It can help relax the muscles in your face and jaw, alleviate stress, and improve cardiovascular functions.

The exercise is best performed in a comfortable, seated position, leaning forward slightly with your hands on your knees or the floor.

1.Spread your fingers as wide as possible.

2.Inhale through your nose.

3.Open your mouth wide, stick out your tongue, and stretch it down toward your chin.

4.Exhale forcefully, carrying the breath across the root of your tongue.

5.While exhaling, make a “ha” sound that comes from deep within your abdomen.

6.Breathe normally for a few moments.

7.Repeat lion’s breath up to seven times.

Everyone experiences anxiety sometimes. It’s the natural part of the body that responds to a threat or danger. Breathing exercises are one of the best ways to deal with anxiety. Most breathing exercises are simple, OPUMP offers a variety of breathing exercises that can help people do them anywhere. If you still feel severe anxiety after breathing exercises, consider consulting a mental health professional or doctor for evaluation and treatment

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