Anxiety Therapy in Philadelphia: How breathing can help you defeat anxiety: sigh of relief - how breathing can help you defeat anxiety: Using deep breathing techniques to relieve anxiety has long been a simple, effective tool for anxiety sufferers at home or in the office. Coupled with therapy and other methods of alleviating and counteracting anxious behavior or panic symptoms, breathing becomes doubly efficient. By lowering the heart rate, releasing endorphins, and flooding the organs with oxygen, deep breathing relieves stress and cuts down hyperventilation risks. Research indicates that those who suffer from anxiety and its related disorders have a pattern of shallow breathing. Whether this pattern is feeding the anxiety or created by it is still unclear, but what it is certain is that interrupting it with a conscious effort to breathe deeply can greatly reduce immediate stress and anxiety levels. It is just one way you can take an offensive stance in your fight against anxiety.
If you’re a beginner at deep breathing, start by taking five concentrated breaths, in and out. Feel the air coming into your lungs and pull it deeper, trying to move it all the way down to your toes. As you exhale, push the air out slowly in a controlled manner; attempt to feel or picture it coming back up through your body, past your stomach and out through lungs and nose. With each breath, imagine a scale of one to ten with ten being the deepest most relaxed breath. Now, rate your breathing to see how you are improving with each one. This helps to make one’s progress more tangible and encourages the exercise.
Once you’ve gotten that down, you can move on to a technique that can be termed the “Five and Five”. This is one of the simplest and most basic breathing techniques for combating anxiety. Simply inhale deeply and slowly for a five second count through the nose; then exhale at the same rate for another five second count. Repeat this several consecutive times. You can use the Five and Five on the spot anytime, anyplace, making it a perfect first defense against threatening anxiety and panic symptoms. Likewise, practicing the Five and Five at regular intervals throughout the day can help ward off anxiety and panic before they start.
Once you’re used to the Five and Five, try closing your eyes to cut off external stimulus and concentrate more fully on the breathing. Additionally, place a hand on the abdomen while breathing, feeling for the signature rise and fall of deep breathing. You can use this as an instrument to ensure that you’re breathing is deep and steady enough each time. Shallow breathing will not result in the movement of the abdomen or stomach area and therefore will help you to know when your breathing pattern could be increasing your stress levels.
For the more advanced, you can employ the aforementioned Five and Five with simple body movements for a fully relaxing experience. Taken from traditional Yoga, this requires a little more space and perhaps more privacy, but is worth it. Sitting or standing with the hands pressed palms together in a prayer position at the chest, and the head slightly bowed, inhale slowly through the nose while simultaneously stretching the arms up toward the sky –always maintaining the palms together. Picture the breath filling the entire body as it stretches and feel yourself drawing in positive, healthy energy.
Then, break the palms away and turn them outward, moving the arms steadily downward in a controlled, straight motion while simultaneously exhaling. As your arms descend, imagine the movement slowly pressing the air from your body and as it does so you are simultaneously expelling all the negative energy and stress from your system.
At the body, join the hands again in a prayer fashion and bring them back to the chest as you are completing the breath. These simple movements open up the entire body while breathing to take in the air and relax the muscles. They are also good for visualizing the oxygen having a positive, recharging effect.
Additional breathing techniques can include other visualization exercises or even employ aromatherapy. Think of these as layers that can be added to increase the potential of the breathing exercises you’ve already learned. Overall, it is most important to keep in mind that it is deep, controlled breathing that relieves anxiety and therefore these techniques are best. Remember, whenever anxiety strikes, use these simple tips and you’ll soon be breathing a sigh of relief.