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4 Breathing Exercises To Help Counteract Your Anxiety

Four traditional breathing exercises that are bound to put your anxiety under control.

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Credit: Andrea Obzerova

Anxiety — it strikes when we least expect it, giving us the fear of an impending danger.

Imagine this: One moment you’re calm, doing some work or trying to fall asleep, when — BAM — out of nowhere, it hits you.

You start trembling, breathing heavily, and worrying that you’re dying. There are many disturbing thoughts going on that you panic even more and your blood pressure rises. Soon enough, your heart starts beating out of your chest, you start feeling dizzy and don’t know where to run anymore.

After the symptoms subsides, you begin to worry about it occurring again. This notion keeps you up at night and even triggers future attacks.

If this sounds familiar and has happened quite often, then you may be suffering from an anxiety disorder. What I described, believe it or not, is more common than you think.

If you want to learn how to control your anxiety, then you’ve come to the right place.

Although most people find anti-anxiety drugs like benzodiazepines or antidepressants useful and fast-acting, simple therapeutic techniques go unnoticed. Breathing exercises, when mastered and executed correctly, may provide as much relief to your anxiety as any other treatment option.

Below are four traditional breathing exercises that are bound to put your anxiety under control.

Mindful Breathing

This breathing technique is helpful for slowing the respiration rate.

Find a relaxed position and pay close attention to your breath without adjusting it. Feel the changes (in sensations) that follow after each deep breath; the rhythm, texture, and temperature of each breath you take.

Once you’ve done this, continue with even deeper breaths, all-while noticing stress, concerns and judgments going away after a couple of minutes of mindful breathing.

Breathing Words

If you want something to focus on during your breathing exercises, this technique is probably for you.

This exercise involves adding words to each deep breath to keep your mind occupied from anxiety and also implements a particular message.

Sit straight on your chair. Rather than speaking the words, breath them in as you inhale and exhale. For example, breath-in the word “I,” as you hold the inhalation, think “am,” and as you exhale think of “calm.” Start out by using “I am calm” and once you master it, change it to whatever choice of words make you more relaxed.

Square Breathing

Square breathing, also known as ‘four square breathing,’ takes the approach of counting to four when taking deep breaths.

Start off by getting comfortable on a chair. Once you’re sitting in a snug position, breath-in while counting to four, followed by holding to the count of four, then exhaling to the count of four, and holding again to the count of four. Repeat this exercise for four minutes.

If this technique works for you, try maximizing its efficacy by adding visualizations. Envision drawing a four-angled box when counting to four each time. This will keep your mind distracted from any unwanted thoughts or judgments.

Balloon Breaths

This is probably my favorite technique, in which a lot of people find efficacy with this one. It involves diaphragmatic breaths that can swiftly bring you to a relaxed state of mind.

You start by sitting on a chair or lying flat on the floor. One benefit of lying on the floor is that you can feel each diaphragmatic breath easier as you inhale. Once you find a right position, place one hand on your stomach and the other on your chest. As you inhale, notice your diaphragm expanding, similar to a balloon. When exhaling, imagine the balloon flattening and losing all its air.

Do this exercise ten more times.

Jose Florez is the founder and editor of Mental Daily. His work has appeared in Psychology Today, Glamour, HuffPost, among others. He is a mental health advocate, and currently studying psychology.

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