Anxiety causes many physiological responses to stress and panic. Breathing problems and hyperventilation are very common with people suffering with anxiety and they can be incredibly distressing. That feeling of panic only increases when your breathing starts speeding up, so sometimes breathing exercises can really help!I know that hearing the phrase “just breathe” is the last thing you want to hear when you’re having a panic attack, and that is completely valid and understandable (I don’t like it either, trust me). But these breathing techniques we’re going to talk about are more for calming you down when you feel anxiety or a panic attack coming on. Slow breathing actually can relieve anxiety and prevent panic attacks if you do it as soon as you notice your breathing changing and your anxiety growing.
I’m going to talk about three different breathing techniques today. Square breathing, the Calm Breath and the One Minute Breath. With each type of breathing technique, you are going to want to take deep breaths and breathe into your diaphragm (belly breathing). To know you are breathing correctly, place your hand over your stomach. When you breathe, your stomach should rise, rather than your chest.
Square breathing is one of the easiest techniques to remember, and it also really helps calm down your breathing. There are four easy steps to practicing Square Breathing and they go as follows:
This next breathing technique is a slight variation of square breathing. It’s essentially the same idea, but with a longer exhale time. For the Calm Breath there are also 4 steps.
(repeat for as long as you need to)
One Minute Breath (Variation)
The last technique I’m going to talk about is probably the most difficult, so I’ll talk about this technique and the variations you can use to help make it more comfortable and effective for yourself. Keep in mind that everyone’s bodies are different, and these breathing techniques are all about practice.
The unmodified way to practice the One Minute Breath is as follows:
Most people starting out will not be able to do this on their first, second, or even third try. Breathing techniques (especially this one) take practice, so don’t be discouraged if you can’t follow that first pattern. I’ll also explain how you can make this technique work for you, no matter your experience level.
Let yourself work up to it! They key of breathing exercises is to be comfortable and relaxed. So ease your way into it! Start inhaling for 10 seconds, holding for 10 seconds, and exhaling for 10 seconds (or even 5 seconds if you need to!) Once you’re comfortable with the 10 second increments, try moving up to 12 or 15 seconds each and make your way up to 20 when/if it’s comfortable for you. Everyone has their limits and pace and that’s totally okay!
I hope these breathing techniques will be to help you. They’re a good way to practice mindfulness and manage stress wherever you are. In combination with listening to calming music, these breathing patterns can really be a great coping mechanism to fight anxiety. Give it a try! We hope it works for you.
Written by Marina, a Social Media and Communications Assistant for Delisle Youth Services for the summer of 2016. I’ve participated in many breathing classes and through learning a lot of different styles, these three techniques have been my favourite!