Breathing Exercises to Calm Your Anxiety
We are continually breathing every minute of every day. Yet, we spend very little time being aware of our breathing because we are constantly preoccupied with the thoughts, activities and stresses of daily life. Here is a list of some effective breathing exercises that will help recenter your focus on your breathing when you are feeling anxious.
1. Elongating Your Exhale
The first thing we always tend to think about when we get anxious is to take a deep breath. In reality, inhaling too rapidly in a short amount of time can actually lead to hyperventilation. Exhaling, on the other hand, increases our body’s ability to relax and calm down. Rather than trying to force a deep inhale, focus on lengthening your exhale.
2. Breathing From Your Abdomen
Unlike breathing from your lungs, breathing from your abdomen reduces the amount of work your body needs to do in order to breathe, which allows your body to relax. It may help to begin by noticing the difference in the way your breathing feels when it comes from the stomach rather than the lungs. When you breathe from your abdomen, make sure to inhale through your nose, fill your stomach with air and exhale through your mouth. Use your stomach muscles to push out any lingering air at the end.
3. Focusing Your Breath
Tuning into your breathing can have major benefits on your overall well-being, such as reducing anxiety. While you inhale and exhale, notice how your stomach and chest rise and fall. Scan your body for any areas of tension you might have been unconsciously holding onto. Chanting or thinking of comforting words is also a great technique to keep you focused on your practice. If you do become distracted, remember to bring yourself back to your breathing and center yourself on your comforting words.
4. Alternate Nostril Breathing
This type of breathing can help improve heart function and lung endurance all while reducing your stress levels. Start by plugging your right nostril with your right thumb, and inhale through your left nostril. At the end of your inhale, plug the left nostril with your right index finger. Then, release your thumb and breathe out through the right nostril. Reverse the direction by now inhaling through the right nostril while keeping the left nostril plugged. Finish by plugging the right nostril and exhaling through the left nostril. Continue this cycle for up to five minutes.