7 Quick Breathing Exercises for Anxiety

7 Quick Breathing Exercises for Anxiety

Everyone gets a little nervous from time to time. Anxiety occurs when such feelings of worry or fear interfere with normal life activities and it is very common, affecting an estimated 3 million Americans each year.

While anxiety is often treated with a variety of professional interventions including talk therapy and medications, breathing exercises are a useful self-care measure for many dealing with stressful or anxious feelings.

Anxiety exercises that focus on breathing are useful because many anxiety-prone individuals take fast and shallow breaths. Such hyperventilation raises the heart rate and robs the brain, as well as the rest of the body, of valuable oxygen that could be used to fuel less panicked thoughts.

While deep breathing has been a popular stress reduction strategy, recent research has shown slow breathing is more effective at diffusing symptoms of stress. Slow breathing exercises can be easily performed without any special equipment and in any location.

Make sure both feet are on the floor and your arms either at the side of the body or are on the lap. Do not cross legs or arms and sit or stand with upright, relaxed posture. While posture does not need to be perfect, slouching places strain on the body that can interfere with breathing.

[qa-quiz id=”1636″]

Once a comfortable posture is achieved, simply breathe in for a count of four and then, immediately, breathe out for a count of six. Do not hold the breath between the in and the out breathing; it only leads to increased physical tension. Don’t worry if breathing in for the required number of counts is not possible. Breathing in for two counts and out for four counts can be just as relaxing.

While practicing slow breathing, it is most important to focus on the sensation of breathing and how the body is feeling. This will provide helpful feedback regarding relaxation and any changes that may be needed. For example, as tension dissipates, the breath counts may be increased to further slow the breathing. As breathing slows, the physical signs associated with anxiety, such as racing heart, sweaty palms, and numbness or tingling in the hands and/or feet, begin to subside.

While slow breathing can be a useful addition to the stress and anxiety management arsenal, it is not meant to replace the advice of a psychologist, physician, or other qualified healthcare provider.