Deep, controlled breathing is one of the easiest ways to regulate and combat issues like anxiety, panic or stress. It is not only easy but very effective, natural and beneficial.
Deep breathing is an always accessible tool that you can reach in any situation to help you regain emotional control and balance.
When we become anxious for any reason (a thought, a sudden event, an intrusive memory) our body enters automatically into a ‘flight or fight’ mode, also called hyper-arousal. This is an adaptive mechanism that helps us to response effectively to a perceived threat.
During this state our body produces natural stress hormones and other chemicals to prepare us for fighting the attack or fleeing. By taking deep breaths, our heart rate slows, more oxygen enters our blood stream and ultimately communicates with the brain to relax.
Deep breathing triggers the release of endorphins, the “feel good” chemical. Endorphins are involved in our natural reward circuits and are important to reduce pain and enhance pleasure.
Other benefits of deep breathing are: Stimulating the lymphatic system, helping our body to carry and absorb nutrients more efficiently, improving our stamina, improving digestion and lowering blood pressure, among others.
Although we constantly breath to keep ourselves alive, doing it effectively needs a bit of learning as our bodies sometimes have a tendency to breath unnaturally (shallow breath, or breathing with our mouth).
These are some tips to help you deep breath and increase your feelings of wellbeing. This can be incorporated in your daily routine and once learned will always be a powerful ally to tackle sudden episodes of stress or panic.
There are many sources and tutorials available on the web, so you always can choose the one that works best for you.
The NHS recommends this breathing exercise for stress, anxiety and panic attacks. It takes a few minutes and can be done anywhere.
You will get the most benefit of this exercise if you do it regularly, as part of your daily routine.
You can do it standing up, sitting in a chair that supports your back, or lying on a bed or yoga mat on the floor.
Make yourself as comfortable as you can. If you can, loosen any clothes that restrict your breathing.
If you’re lying down, place your arms a little bit away from your sides, with the palms up. Let your legs be straight, or bend your knees so your feet are flat on the floor.
If you’re sitting, place your arms on the chair arms.
If you’re sitting or standing, place both feet flat on the ground. Whatever position you’re in, place your feet roughly hip-width apart.
• Let your breath flow as deep down into your belly as is comfortable, without forcing it.
• Try breathing in through your nose and out through your mouth.
• Breathe in gently and regularly. Some people find it helpful to count steadily from 1 to 5. You may not be able to reach 5 at first.
• Then, without pausing or holding your breath, let it flow out gently, counting from 1 to 5 again, if you find this helpful.
• Keep doing this for 3 to 5 minutes.
Another version of the exercise, if you have more control of your space, is lying on a bed or floor and putting a hand on your chest and the other on your stomach