Breathing Exercises for Anxiety

Anxious situations and scenarios often cause breathing difficulties in people suffering from anxiety problems. Fear and anxiety causes them to breathe fast, but shallow. This leads to hyperventilation and shortness of breath followed by a number of other symptoms such as dizziness, chest pain, feeling lightheaded, lump in the throat, poor concentration and a sensation of choked throat. If this is not monitored on time, it can lead to anxiety attacks.

However, the deep and slow breathes can often reduce stress and anxiety. If you suffer from anxiety frequently, there are some breathing exercises that you can try to control your anxiety level.

Breathing Exercises for Anxiety

Understanding the Breathing Techniques

When you suffer from anxiety or are about to get an anxiety attack due to shortness of breath, you will encounter one of the following breathing habits. These are –

  • Over-breathing: Thinking that you are not getting enough air.
  • Shallow-breathing: Breathing too rapidly that is not deep enough.
  • Monitored-breathing: Being very conscious about your breaths.

Since poor breathing habits during an anxious situation can worsen the health, it is a must that proper breathing exercises are practiced to calm oneself during such a scenario.

Breathing Exercises for Anxiety

There are many breathing exercises that can calm the body, reduce the anxiety and prevent an anxiety attack. These must be regularly practiced by those, who are severely anxious or get frequent anxiety attacks. This will help them to practice these calming exercises at the right situation.

  • CO2 Rebreathing: During an anxiety attack or as you feel anxious and you realize that you are not breathing well or not receiving enough of oxygen in the body, you are actually getting too much of oxygen. However, what you are lacking is enough CO2 that needs to be produced to balance the amount of oxygen that is inhaled. In this case, the CO2 Rebreathing is a very useful exercise.

All that you need to do is hold a paper bag in front of your mouth or cup your mouth with your hands and breathe slowly. This will make sure that the CO2 that is exhaled, stays inside the bag and by slow breaths, you can regain the CO2 and balance the oxygen and carbon dioxide level.

  • Deep Breathing Exercises for Anxiety: Though, deep and slow breaths cannot prevent an anxiety attack, they can actually calm you during high stress and high anxiety. All that you need to do is sit straight on a chair and take slow, but deep breaths through your nose and hold the breath for about 5 to 6 seconds and then slowly release the breath. This must be practiced for about 10 times repetitively. It has proven to calm down the body and mind and relieve the stress and anxiety level. Blood pressure is also balanced with this simple exercise.
  • Advanced Inhale-Hold-Exhale Deep Breathing Exercise: Those who suffer from severe anxiety, must practice this exercise. Practice is important, as otherwise it might be quite difficult to do this exercise at the time of panic or anxiety attack.

For this exercise you need to –

  • Inhale for about 5 heartbeats.
  • Hold the breath for about 7 heartbeats.
  • Exhale for about 9 heartbeats.

Since it takes a significant amount of time and needs to monitor the heartbeats, it is a must that you find a comfortable and relaxing atmosphere for this exercise. While inhaling, try to breathe with your stomach first and then with your lungs. This exercise is not suitable for those, who have a heart problem.

  • Coherent Breathing Exercise for Anxiety: Yet another easy and simple breathing exercise that can fight anxiety well is the coherent breathing exercise. In this exercise, you need to inhale and exhale 5 times within a minute. The heart rate variability (HRV) is maximized by this 5-minute rate. Practicing this exercise will gradually increase your HRV and that is the goal to stabilize and calm your heartbeat and palpitation, when you are anxious.
  • Resistance Breathing for Anxiety: This breathing exercise often sounds complicated, as the concept of slow and deep breathing is to ensure that breathing is easy. However, in case of resistance breathing, breathing is resisted. For that you do not have to do anything, but only inhale and exhale through the nose, instead of the mouth. According to Brown and Gerbarg, breathing is smooth when done through the mouth and resisted, when done through the nose. Resisted breathing is very effective in controlling anxiety.
  • Abdominal Breathing Technique for Anxiety: While talking about breathing through the stomach instead of the lung, the Abdominal Breathing Technique must be mentioned. To perform this breathing exercise for anxiety, you need to place one hand on the chest and the other on the stomach. You need to inhale to make sure that the diaphragm is inflated.
  • Sama Vritti or Equal Breathing Exercise for Anxiety: This is a method of Yoga or Pranayama, in which the inhales and exhales are in rhythm. If the inhales are done on a count of four, the exhales too are done so. With gradual practice, the counts are increased, so that the breath can be held for longer. This breathing exercise calms the anxiety.
  • Kapalabhati or Skull Shining Breath: This traditional breathing exercise encourages long and slow inhales followed by short and fast exhale. The process needs to be repeated for about 10 times, unless you cope with the pace.
  • Nadi Shodhana or Alternate Nostril Breathing Exercise for Controlling Anxiety: One of the most effective meditative breathing exercises that are effective in managing anxiety, stress and tension is the Alternate Nostril Breathing or Nadi Shodhana. For that you need to sit in the meditative posture, hold the right thumb on the right nostril and inhale with the left nostril. As you reach the peak of inhalation, you need to hold the left nostril with your ring finger and release the right thumb and exhale through the right nostril.

With these simple breathing exercises, anxiety can well be managed or at least prevented from worsening.

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Team PainAssist
Team PainAssist
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Team PainAssist, Pain Assist Inc. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:July 3, 2017

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