Anyone who suffers from anxiety can attest to just how debilitating it can be. It can have a significant impact on your everyday life: from how you interact with loved ones to how you perform at work. As such, seeking out ways to cope in the short and long-term is crucial to leading a happier, more mindful life.
Alongside feelings of dread and despair, many anxiety sufferers will find themselves breathless or tight chested. When this happens, it can often cause further panic as you aren’t able to control your breathing as you normally would. Fortunately, however, there are many breathing techniques that you can try to help alleviate symptoms.
1. Pursed Lip Breathing
This simple technique forces you to slow down your breathing pace by having you apply deliberate effort with each breath. All you have to do is:
Relax your neck and shoulders.
Keeping your mouth closed, inhale slowly through your nose for 2 counts.
Pucker or purse your lips as though you were going to whistle.
Exhale slowly by blowing air through your pursed lips for a count of 4.
Pursed lip breathing can be practised subtly anywhere, anytime, and can be particularly useful if you start feeling anxious in a public place.
2. Diaphragmatic Breathing
Diaphragmatic breathing (or ‘belly breathing’) is a technique that helps to strengthen your diaphragm and fill your lungs with air more efficiently. Alongside reducing anxiety and stress, diaphragmatic breathing is effective for challenges related to eating disorders, migraine episodes and other health conditions.
Lie on your back with your knees slightly bent and your head on a pillow.
You may place a pillow under your knees for support.
Place one hand on your upper chest and one hand below your rib cage, allowing you to feel the movement of your diaphragm.
Slowly inhale through your nose, feeling your stomach pressing into your hand.
Keep your other hand as still as possible.
Exhale using pursed lips as you tighten your abdominal muscles, keeping your upper hand completely still.
When you start practising diaphragmatic breathing, you might become tired quickly. Over time, however, it should start to feel more natural.
3. Alternate Nostril Breathing
This yoga-based technique is highly effective for general relaxation, as well as for alleviating anxiety attack symptoms. Alternate nostril breathing works to lower your heart rate and enhance cardiovascular function, which can be especially helpful if you can’t catch your breath. To try it, simply:
Lift your right hand toward your nose, pressing your first and middle fingers down toward your palm and leaving your other fingers extended.
After an exhale, use your right thumb to gently close your right nostril.
Inhale through your left nostril and then close your left nostril with your right pinky and ring fingers.
Release your thumb and exhale out through your right nostril.
Inhale through your right nostril and then close this nostril.
Release your fingers to open your left nostril and exhale through this side.
Continue this breathing pattern for up to 5 minutes.
Finish your session with an exhale on the left side.