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