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4 Powerful Breathing Exercises for Anxiety and Panic Attacks

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 quite 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 practicing Buddhist or an expert at Zen meditation to benefit from the remarkable benefits breathing can give you. And you can do these breathing exercises anytime, anywhere. So whenever a panic attack rares its ugly head, you'll be ready.

Oxygen is vital for calming the nervous system. I mean think about it. When you're anxious or panicky, you tend to hold your breath. Right?

Well, I know that I do. Terrible habit by the way.

Anyway, holding your breath causes tense muscles and lightheartedness. 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? Cause 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?

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I hope this article on Breathing Exercises for Anxiety and Panic Attacks helps you on your journey to better mental health!


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