Skip to main content

4 Powerful Breathing Exercises for Anxiety and Panic Attacks

Like many of us, I know the feeling all too well. When anxiety hits, you tend to hold your breath, right? It's a terrible habit, but guess what? Anxiety disorders affect over 40 million adults in the United States each year [Ref.: National Institute of Mental Health]. That's a lot of people who could benefit from a simple yet powerful tool: breathing exercises.

Breathing Exercises for Anxiety and Panic Attacks

Practicing breathing exercises for anxiety relief has been a time-honored practice for thousands of years. It may seem unlikely that merely practicing breathing can be a huge help for relieving anxiety and panic attacks, but it's true.

But don't worry, you don't have to be a yoga guru to reap the benefits of breathing and take charge of your anxiety. You can do these breathing exercises anytime, anywhere. So whenever a panic attack raises its ugly head, you'll be ready.

Oxygen is vital for calming the nervous system. Think about it: when you're anxious or panicky, you tend to hold your breath, right?

Well, I know that I do. It's a terrible habit, by the way.

Anyway, holding your breath causes tense muscles and lightheadedness. But when you take the time to breathe, I mean really breathe, your body truly relaxes.

Plus, the more you practice breathing exercises, the longer the feeling of calm stays with you.

The thing that makes these techniques effective for relieving anxiety is taking really deep breaths from your abdomen rather than shallow breathing from your upper chest.

This way, you breathe in more oxygen. And the more oxygen you take in, the less tense and anxious you'll be overall.

4 Breathing Exercises for Anxiety

Now get comfy, breathe in, and chill out.

Breathing Exercise 1. Equal Breath

Equal breath means to inhale and exhale for an equal amount. Ok, so you would inhale for, let's say a count of five then exhale for a count of five.

This breathing technique is perfect for bedtime. If you're having trouble falling asleep at night this breathing technique will help you turn off those racing thoughts.

Breathing Exercise 2. Abdominal Breathing Technique

Start by placing one hand on your chest and another hand on your belly. Breathe deeply through your nose. It should seem like your belly is inflating.

Aim for ten slow deep breaths per minute. Do this exercise for ten minutes. Abdominal Breathing is perfect for calming down after a stressful event.

It's also handy if you're about to do something anxiety-producing like an exam, performing, before a dental visit, a meeting, etc.

If you're new to breathing exercises, it may be hard to stay focused. But practice makes perfect and pretty soon you'll be a pro.

Breathing Exercise 3.  Alternate Nostril Breathing

Of course, you want to say calm, but sometimes you just need a jolt of energy. Since caffeine is a no-no for anxiety sufferers, this breathing exercise can be just as stimulating as a cup of coffee.

But that's not all. Alternate nostril breathing is also calming, centers your mind, and unites both sides of the brain. How about that!

Here's how it works:
  • Start by lying or sitting on a comfortable surface.
  • Now hold your right thumb over your right nostril. Inhale deeply through your left nostril.
  • When you've inhaled as much oxygen as you can, close off the left nostril using your ring finger. Exhale through the right nostril.
  • Now inhale through the right nostril, closing it off with the right thumb, and exhaling through the left nostril.
Was that explanation just a bit confusing? Honestly, when I first did this technique I had to watch a video to get it right. But boy I sure felt great afterward!

Watch this short two-minute video on how to do alternate nostril breathing.

Note: The lady narrating this video may do her alternate nostril breathing a little differently than I described above. But I think the results are the same.

Breathing Exercise 4. Breath Moving

Now, this is probably the most unusual breathing exercise.  All you need for this breathing technique are your lungs and your vivid imagination.

Oh, and if you don't think you have imagination, trust me when I say, "You DO!"  So anyway, back to Breath Moving.

Here's how it works:

Get comfortable.
  • Breathe in, imagine you're moving your breath to the top of your head.
  • Breathe out and imagine you're moving your breath to the base of your spine, then your sit bones. 
  • Each time you inhale, picture your breath moving to the top of your head.
  • Each time you exhale, move your breath to the base of the spine.
Repeat this breathing circuit ten times. 

By the way, you can use these breathing exercises while doing some aromatherapy.  Soothing lavender, uplifting Ylang, Ylang... how can you go wrong?

Read further:


So there you have it! Four fantastic breathing exercises you can use to fight back against anxiety and panic attacks. Remember, these techniques take practice, so don't get discouraged if you don't feel like a breathing ninja right away. Keep at it, and you'll be a pro in no time.

The best part? You can do these exercises anywhere, anytime.

Feeling anxious before a big presentation? Take a few minutes for some deep belly breaths. Can't seem to turn off your brain at night? Try some equal breathing to lull yourself to sleep. Is anxiety rearing its ugly head in the middle of the grocery store? Hit it with some alternate nostril breathing (just don't worry if people give you strange looks – they're probably just jealous of your newfound zen!).

Breathing exercises are a powerful tool in your anxiety-fighting arsenal. Use them regularly, and you'll be well on your way to a calmer, more relaxed you.

Here's a quick recap of the breathing exercises we covered:
  • Equal Breathing: Perfect for bedtime and quieting racing thoughts.
  • Abdominal Breathing: Great for calming down after stress and managing pre-anxiety situations.
  • Alternate Nostril Breathing: Energizing, calming, and centers your mind.
  • Breath Moving: Visualize your breath moving throughout your body for deep relaxation.
So next time anxiety or a panic attack comes knocking, don't just sit there and take it! Take a deep breath, and fight back with some powerful breathing exercises. You've got this!


Other Posts

The Mystery of Edith Bouvier Beale's Mental Health

Edith Bouvier Beale , commonly known as " Little Edie ," was an American socialite and cousin of former First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis. In this article, we explore the life of Edith Bouvier Beale, an enigmatic figure whose struggles with mental health captivated public attention. From her affluent upbringing to her seclusion in " Grey Gardens ," we delve into the complexities of Edith Bouvier Beale's mental health journey. Edith Bouvier Beale's Mental Health: What We Know (and Don't Know) In the realm of intriguing personalities, Edith Bouvier Beale stands out as a complex figure whose life was marked by both glamour and obscurity. While her name might not ring a bell for everyone, her captivating journey, marred by mental health struggles, has left an indelible mark. Let us delve into the life of Edith Bouvier Beale, exploring her early days, her rise to stardom, her decline into isolation, and the profound impact of mental health challenges on

OCD: Symptoms, Types, Causes, Treatment, Help, Cure

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder , more commonly known as  OCD , is a common, chronic, and long-lasting disorder and is characterized by way of persistent, undesired thought processes (obsessions) and/or repeating actions (compulsions). Obsession, in this case, is highly unpleasant as the individual is compelled to repeat certain behaviors again and again. The condition, most of the time, is anxiety-related and the  thoughts are unwanted and intrusive . Sufferers often understand that these thoughts are irrational, but by performing compulsive behavior, they believe they will be cured or will be relieved. Recurring actions such as hand washing (to avoid catching germs), counting numbers, checking things over, or cleaning are frequently carried out with the anticipation of avoiding compulsive thoughts or making them disappear altogether. This is to avoid their obsession turning into reality. OCD is a common mental condition that affects 2.5 million adults or

Health Anxiety Is Ruining My Life: How to Get Over It

Do you have a fear of diseases? Have you ever thought of a simple headache to be a brain tumor, or a slight stomach ache as an intestinal blockage? Have people ever called you crazy because of your obsession with health and hygiene? Are you gripped by a constant fear of being terminally ill? Have you ever self-diagnosed yourself by checking the symptoms online? Are you aware of the symptoms of various diseases because you constantly look them up online? Do you keep getting tests done (often by different doctors)? Is no reassurance enough to prove that you are not sick? You know that but are never satisfied. Is that you? If the answer to most of these questions is yes, you probably are a hypochondriac. But if " Health anxiety is ruining my life " is something you can relate to, this article will help you overcome it. Health Anxiety Is Ruining My Life If you're constantly worried about their health and always convinced that you are sick, then you may