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  • Writer's pictureDena Lampert

The Power of Breathing For Fighting Anxiety

Masks are coming off and it’s finally time to breathe again. The breath is an incredibly powerful tool that can be utilized at any time and place to help you ground yourself in the present moment, get out of your thoughts, and slow down. It might sound simple but the simple act of breathing mindfully can help reduce anxiety, calm your stress, and improve your mood. Breathing exercises work by slowing your heart rate, reducing your blood pressure, and can help to release any tension by increasing oxygen.

When we feel anxious and fearful, our bodies tend to fall into “fight or flight” mode and this reaction makes our breathing shallow and rapid to increase oxygen, making our bodies ready for action. However, if we do not use this extra oxygen by fighting or running away, there

is temporarily an imbalance in the amount of oxygen and carbon dioxide in our blood. And this imbalance causes many of the symptoms of anxiety such as increased heart rate, sweaty palms, and shallow breathing, just to name a few.

By slowing our breathing down and breathing into the lower part of our lungs (also called diaphragmatic breathing), we can rebalance the amount of oxygen and carbon dioxide in our blood.

How to practice diaphragmatic breathing

Diaphragmatic breathing is a simple and easy technique that you can use anywhere because you only need yourself!

Diaphragmatic breathing is named so because, underneath our lungs, we have a dome-shaped muscle called the diaphragm which is an important muscle used for breathing. The key element of this breathing technique, also known as belly breathing, is consciously engaging our diaphragm when breathing.

Here’s a step by step guide to diaphragmatic breathing:

  1. Get into a comfortable position. This can be sitting comfortably on a chair with your feet on the floor, lying down, or standing up.

  2. Once you’re comfortable, place one hand on your upper chest and the other on your stomach just below your ribs.

  3. Breathe in slowly and calmly. Fill up your belly with a normal breath and try not to breathe in too heavily. You should feel your hands move up when you breathe in. Avoid lifting your shoulders as you inhale, rather, breathe into your stomach.

  4. Breathe out slowly to the count of 4.

  5. After exhaling, hold for 2-3 seconds before inhaling again.

  6. Continue for 3 to 5 minutes, or until you feel calmer.

It’s important to breathe at a pace that feels natural for you. Be aware of the hand on your stomach rising as you breathe, while the hand on your upper chest should hardly move. Once you have mastered the technique of diaphragmatic breathing, you can continue without placing your hands on your chest and stomach.

Resources to support you with diaphragmatic breathing

There are several apps that can support you with your breathing practice. Some of our favorites are:

Practicing diaphragmatic breathing when you’re experiencing anxiety can be an incredibly helpful tool to get you through these difficult situations. While it won’t cure your anxiety, it can be successful in helping you cope short-term, and even help with preventing anxiety from occurring in the future.

If you’re looking for a more long-term solution to treating anxiety, get in touch with us and speak to one of our therapists. You don’t have to do it alone.


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