When you are feeling overwhelmed by anxious thoughts, it can be really hard to stay connected to yourself and the present moment. It is so easy to get carried away by our emotions, especially when we don’t have immediate access to our support system. Breathing techniques can be a valuable tool for managing anxiety and reducing its symptoms. By focusing on your breath, you can activate the body’s relaxation response and help calm the mind. Here are a few helpful breathing techniques we recommend for anxiety:
1. Deep Breathing: Find a comfortable position and take slow, deep breaths. Inhale deeply through your nose, allowing your abdomen to rise as you fill your lungs with air. Exhale slowly through your mouth, letting go of tension with each breath. Repeat this pattern for several minutes, focusing on the sensation of your breath entering and leaving your body.
2. 4-7-8 Breathing: This technique is also known as “relaxing breath.” Close your eyes and take a deep breath through your nose to the count of four. Hold your breath for a count of seven. Exhale slowly through your mouth to the count of eight, making a “whoosh” sound. Repeat this cycle for a few minutes, allowing your breath to become slow and rhythmic.
3. Box Breathing: Visualize a box with four equal sides. Inhale slowly through your nose to the count of four as you trace the first side of the box. Hold your breath for a count of four as you trace the second side. Exhale slowly through your nose or mouth to the count of four as you trace the third side. Hold your breath again for a count of four as you trace the fourth side. Repeat this sequence for several minutes, focusing on the visualization and the sensation of your breath.
4. Diaphragmatic Breathing: Place one hand on your chest and the other on your abdomen. Take a slow, deep breath through your nose, allowing your abdomen to rise while keeping your chest relatively still. Exhale gently through your nose or mouth, feeling your abdomen lower. Practice this technique for a few minutes, allowing your breath to become deep and centered in your diaphragm.
5. Alternate Nostril Breathing: Sit comfortably and use your right thumb to close your right nostril. Inhale slowly through your left nostril. At the top of your breath, close your left nostril with your right ring finger and release your thumb, opening your right nostril. Exhale slowly through your right nostril. Inhale through your right nostril, close it with your thumb, and open your left nostril, exhaling through it. Continue this pattern, alternating nostrils for a few minutes, focusing on the flow of air and the sensation it creates.
Remember, practicing these techniques regularly, even when you are not feeling anxious, can help build your ability to use them effectively when anxiety arises. They can be used in combination with other coping strategies, somatic movement like yoga or stretching, and professional treatment, to manage anxiety and promote a sense of calm and well-being.
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