Did you know that controlling your breathing is one of the easiest ways to reduce your anxiety?
When you're feeling anxious, you begin taking quicker and shallower breaths. These faster breaths mess with the levels of oxygen and carbon dioxide in your blood, which causes a ton of the physical symptoms of anxiety - like increased heart rate, dizziness, and muscle tension.
These physical symptoms might freak you out and make you feel more anxious too. Anyone else ever ask themselves, "Am I having a heart attack?!"
On the flip side, proper breathing sends signals to your brain to calm down and relax. Your blood cells receive oxygen and release carbon dioxide, helping you to chill out.
But calming down is not as simple as "just breathe" - I hate when people say this. Like, duh, I'm breathing. If you want to use your breath to calm down, you have to breathe correctly. Breathing exercises can help.
I love breathing exercises because they're easy to learn and you can do them anytime, anywhere. It can be really helpful to have a go-to that you practice so you're ready to use it when the anxiety hits. There are a ton of different techniques to pick from, but these are my 3 favorites. Give them a try and see which one you like best!
Get comfortable in your chair or on the floor. Put your hands on your belly, and imagine that your belly is a balloon.
Take a deep breath in and imagine the balloon filling with air. Take a long slow breath out and imagine the balloon deflating and getting smaller.
Repeat 10 times, or until you feel ~calm~.
Hold your hand up in front of you. Take your pointer finger and start at your thumb. Trace your finger up your thumb, taking a deep breath in. Slowly trace your finger down the side of your thumb as you take a long exhale.
Continue tracing your way up and down each finger, as you take slow, long breaths in and out. Trace your whole hand at least 2 times.
Visualize a box. Take a deep inhale for 4 seconds as you breathe up the box. Hold your breath for 4 seconds and visualize moving across the box. Slowly exhale for 4 seconds as you move down the box. And then hold for another 4 seconds as you move across, completing the box.
Repeat 4 times!
Bonus cool factor: this technique is used by Navy SEALs because it helps to improve concentration, enhance performance, reduce stress, and improve your mood.
Kelly O’Sullivan, LCSW, MBA is a millennial therapist with a modern approach. She specializes in helping millennial women and teens overcome anxiety and build confidence. Kelly provides virtual therapy to New York and New Jersey residents. Please contact Kelly at [email protected] or visit her website at: www.sitwithkelly.com.