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  • Writer's pictureDmitri Konash

Best Breathing Exercises for Anxiety

Updated: May 29, 2023

How breathing exercises helped me to lower anxiety and why you should learn them too.

What are the best breathing exercises for anxiety and best way to learn them

How it all started?

I was diagnosed with anxiety and high blood pressure in my mid-forties. It was a result of work-related stress.

Those days I often felt like my body is on a constant high alert ready to overreact emotionally and jump into action triggered by a silly distraction. Most of us experience a similar feeling after having too much coffee during the day. I felt worried most of the time and small insignificant events, i.e. a 5-minute traffic jam, led to a spike in anxiety and, as a result, to a spike in blood pressure.

Breathing exercises is a great natural way to lower anxiety

When I approached my doctor with a question how I can lower my anxiety and blood pressure, he suggested to start from breathing exercises.

The doctor explained that when we breathe slowly and deeply we send a powerful message to our brain and body that there is nothing to worry about. Those things that happen when we are stressed, such as increased heart rate, fast breathing, and high blood pressure, all decrease as we breathe deeply and slowly [1].

3 most popular breathing exercises for anxiety.

1. 4-7-8 Breathing

This breathing anxiety exercise is the easiest between the three. You can do it anywhere without drawing attention to yourself, even if you feel stressed in an important business meeting. This exercises also works as a great breath exercise for sleep.

A. Take a deep, slow breath from your belly, and silently count to 4 as you breathe in.

B. Hold your breath, and silently count from 1 to 7.

C. Breathe out completely as you silently count from 1 to 8.

D. Repeat for at least one minute or more if needed.

The 4-7-8 breathing sequence is a bit more difficult to learn then the equal length inhale/exhale sequence. It is more efficient however because longer exhalation engages actively our parasympathetic nervous system which in turn sends a message to the body to relax.

Following the breathing circle visually helps to stay focused on this breathing pattern longer, hence produces better effect. Try following a 4-7-8 breathing exercise circle on our YouTube channel. For even better effect make deep inhales through the nose and get all the air out of your lungs through the mouth.

2. Alternate nostril breathing

This exercise comes from yoga from anxiety and it has been practiced in eastern cultures for hundreds of years. It is a bit more difficult to learn than the previous one, but it is more effective as it forces the brain even more to switch attention from disturbing thoughts to breathing.

Hence higher engagement of the parasympathetic nervous system and more relaxation for the body. You need to be aware though, that it is better to do this exercise in privacy. You need to close nostrils with fingers while breathing and this may look awkward to some observers :)

Here is how it works.

A. Close right nostril with your finger, inhale through left nostril

B. Close left nostril, exhale through right nostril, pause for 1 sec, inhale through right nostril, pause for 1 second.

C. Close right nostril, exhale through left nostril, inhale through left nostril, pause for 1 second

D. Repeat the cycle for at least 1 minute, always switching nostrils at the top.

3. Deep focus breathing

Out of the three exercises described here this is the most difficult to master, it requires a quiet place where you will not be disturbed and yet if done regularly for 10 min every day it produces longest health benefits. It took me almost a year to learn mindful breathing and practicing it daily resulted in almost totally eliminating anxiety outbursts.

Here is how to do it.

A. Sit or lay down in a quiet place where you will not be distracted, close your eyes.

B. Make three deep breaths, try to relax face and body muscles

C. Focus on the area where you feel most your breathing, i.e. stomach or nostrils

D. Breathe normally following closely inhales and exhales, count breathes in your head. One on inhale, two on exhale, and so on

E. Repeat for at least few minutes

Sound easy, right? In reality this is a VERY difficult exercise as we get permanently distracted by thoughts in our head. Beginners find it difficult to stay fully focused on breathing even for 1-2 minutes. Here is where guided breathing meditations come very handy.

best breathing exercises for anxiety in BreathNow app for iPhone and Apple Watch

We developed BreathNow app to help everyone to learn breathing exercises for anxiety, high blood pressure, focus and better sleep. Your can perform breathing exercises either with the help of iPhone or Apple Watch. The app includes a tool which OBJECTIVELY tells users which breathing exercise works better for them. The latest addition to the range of impactful breathing techniques in BreathNow is a Biofeedback breathing where your phone shows how well you focus on the exercises.

When anxiety requires a visit to a doctor?

Some anxiety is normal and not a point of concern. You should speak to a doctor if:

1. excessive anxiety that has a negative impact on your daily activities

2. you are dealing with anxiety causes by addictions

3. you are having irrational fears

4. thinking about self-harming

5. feeling out of control


Breathing technique for anxiety is a great tool to lower anxiety. Best breathing exercises for anxiety differ in learning complexity and effectiveness. Mobile apps like BreathNow help users to increase the positive health impact of breathing exercises.



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