More than 4 million children and 40 million adults are diagnosed with anxiety each year. Some experience more intense symptoms than others. Common symptoms of anxiety include feeling agitated or worried, having breathing or sleeping difficulties, or feeling restless. People with anxiety may also experience heart palpitations or panic attacks.
One of the simplest ways to calm down and relax when experiencing intense anxiety is through deep breathing. Deep breathing, as opposed to the quick breaths people take when feeling anxious, involves using extended and slower breaths from the stomach, which allows additional air to enter the body to help calm any nerves. With deep breathing, more carbon dioxide enters the blood stream, and this helps the part of the brain which both controls anxiety and regulates the person’s breathing and heartbeat. These drawn out breaths help ease the nervous system.
Many breathing techniques require practice and time to become effective. However, there are many breathing exercises that are easy to learn and still practical. Below are just some creative, yet simple breathing techniques people can try to lessen their anxiety:
Alternate Nostril Breathing: Alternate nostril breathing is a simple sitting breathing technique which calms the body and mind, and slows the heart rate down. Using your right hand, cover your right nostril with the thumb. After inhaling through the left nostril, cover it with your index finger, so both nostrils are briefly covered. Release the thumb from the right nostril and slowly breathe out of the right nostril. Repeat the cycle, but now inhale through your right nostril. After inhaling, cover the right nostril with the thumb and release the index finger from the left nostril. Here is a video that demonstrates this breathing technique.
Diaphragmatic Breathing: Also known as belly breathing, diaphragmatic breathing helps with relaxation, anxiety, and blood pressure. This technique is best done lying down with a pillow under the legs. It uses the diaphragm (located at the base of the lungs), stomach, and abdominal muscles. Inhale through the nose while placing one hand on your upper chest and the other below the rib cage on the belly. Breathe out through the nose so the diaphragm becomes tighter and air enters the lower belly. When this happens, the hand on your chest will not move, but the hand under your rib cage should rise. When breathing out, stiffen the abdomen muscle, so the stomach moves downwards and relaxes. The hand that you have on your belly will return to its original position. Here is a video that demonstrates this breathing technique.
Box Breathing: Box breathing, or square breathing, helps with deep and slow breathing. This technique is best done while sitting in a chair with your hands relaxed on your lap facing up. Begin by closing both eyes and exhaling through the mouth to expel oxygen out from the lungs. Then, inhale through the nose and count to four before breathing out, so the lungs will feel filled. After counting and holding your breath, slowly exhale through the nose while counting to four again, once more releasing the air from the lungs. Wait four seconds before repeating the process. Box breathing can also help with concentration, stress, and improving people’s sleep. Here is a video that demonstrates this breathing technique.