Breathing Techniques to Instantly Reduce Anxiety

By Clare Burgess - Hypnotherapist -

You may have already tried mindfulness, yoga or guided visualisation to help you relax. If you have, you’ll already know that focusing on our breath and breathing deeply are key to triggering the relaxation response in the brain. Yet many of us don’t practice this type of breathing enough and often don’t know how to use these techniques when we experience anxiety.

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Learning to breathe deeply and correctly is one of the most effective tools for instantly calming the mind and body. Slow breathing can be so effective, it is often the number one coping tool to stop panic attacks. The reason for this is that slow breathing triggers the relaxation response in the brain and helps to give us a sense of control. Stress is the activation of the Sympathetic nervous system is often known as the fight or flight response. This stress response gets you ready for action or protection by increasing your heart beat, switching off your rational slow thinking and increase your breathing. Your breathing can become swallow and fast. Extending your outbreath as far as you can to slow your breathing down turns this off and returns your body to a normal state of calm.

Using techniques where you count the breath or use visualisations also works as a wonderful mental distraction from any worries. Also notice how your jaw feels as you are breathing. We often hold tension in our jaws which prevents the rest of the body relaxing.

Practicing slow breathing for a few minutes not only makes it more natural to use in any situation but also helps reduce stress for the long-term.

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Extending the outbreath with 7/11:

  • Start by noticing your breathing and how you are feeling
  • Breathe in through your nose for a count of 7 – really try to fill your abdomen
  • Release the breath for a count of 11
  • If you aren’t comfortable with 7/11, try in for 4 and out for 8
  • As you get comfortable with this exercise, try holding your breath for a few seconds after the inhale counting from 2 to 7 or whatever is comfortable before releasing (Please don’t hold your breath if you are pregnant)
  • Repeat for as long as you need to
  • Notice how quickly this technique calms both your mind and body

Belly breathing:

  • Start by noticing your breathing and how you are feeling
  • Breathe in deeply through your nose and push your tummy out as you inhale
  • Put your hands on your tummy and imagine a balloon filling with air
  • Release the breath through an open jaw for as long as you can – deflating the balloon and pulling your tummy in
  • As you breath out through your mouth hear your breath and imagine the sound carrying any tension away

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