There is an incredible interaction between our sensations of anxiety and our breath.
When we feel anxious our breathing patterns changes. It becomes more shallow and we begin to gulp air or hyperventilate.
But it also works the other way round.
If we deliberately change our breathing pattern we can make ourselves feel anxious.
If we start to breathe rapidly from the upper part of our chest then this interacts with our sympathetic nervous system and will create feelings of anxiety.
Take a Step…
If you want to get on top of your feelings of anxiety then improving your breathing patterns is a great first step.
This resource introduces four different ways of relating to your breath.
Relaxed Breathing, Exhaling Slowly, Mindful Breathing and Finding Courage within the Anxiety.
Relaxed breathing introduces you to the importance of breathing with your abdominal muscles. Learning to do this when you are feeling relaxed increases the likelihood that you will be able to maintain this pattern under pressure.
Exhaling slowly is all about responding under pressure. When you notice you are feeling anxiety then breathing out for longer than you breath in impacts your myelinated vagus and calms your physical experience of anxiety.
Sometimes feeling the pressure of breathing the “right way” can make you feel even more nervous! That’s why sometimes you might forget the first two exercises and simply use mindfulness to connect to your breath again.
Finally, there are times when trying to calm down can have the paradoxical effect of making things worse. At times like this it might be more valuable to bring something to the anxiety. The final exercise introduces the idea of harnessing your experience of anxiety to empower you to take action, find strength or gather hope.
Some Extra resources…
Breathe helps you reduce the physical symptoms of stress and anxiety by slowing down your breathing and your heart rate with your iPhone or Apple Watch. Using simple visuals, Breathe helps you to control your breath and measures your heart rate in real-time using the camera in your phone.
You can download this free app through the Apple App store.
Breathing Retraining Audio
This audio file from the Centre for Clinical Interventions in Western Australia will guide you through the Breathing Retraining technique.
Click here for a link through to their Breathing retraining audio (MP3)