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Breathing is an automatic action required for life that none of us really give much thought to. Breathing provides oxygen to cells and allows the body to release waste and carbon dioxide. But improper breathing can negatively affect the exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide in the body, meaning that the symptoms and chances of panic attacks, anxiety, fatigue, and other emotional issues skyrocket. Put simply, poor breathing can make you more anxious.
In general, there are two common types of breathing: diaphragmatic, or abdominal breathing, and thoracic, or chest breathing. If you have anxiety, breathing problems associated with anxious thoughts are nothing new. During periods of anxiety, most people take quick, shallow breaths from the chest. Sometimes, this breathing pattern during anxiety can be unconscious. Chest breathing in general throws off oxygen and carbon dioxide, causing an increased heart rate, muscle tension, dizziness, and more. Since your blood is not receiving the correct amount of oxygen, the body reacts with a stress response that makes anxiety and panic even worse. During abdominal breathing, on the other hand, breaths are deep and even. This breath pattern is how newborn babies breathe naturally, as well as how we breathe during relaxed periods of deep sleep. Deep, diaphragmatic breathing through the nose helps keep our bodies from entering a fight or flight stress response.
The body’s natural response to stress is anxiety, or the “fight or flight” response. When you’re faced with a threat to your wellbeing, whether it’s real or perceived, anxiety helps us to stay aware and keeps us on our toes so we can tackle whatever is headed our way. In today’s world, however, we aren’t faced with as many threats as we were in the past. The fight or flight response is still there and can become so disruptive that it causes a disruption in everyday life for some people. This can lead to feelings of dread and distress.
Breathing exercises are a viable way to cope with anxious thoughts and feelings. They slow the heart rate, calm our minds, and can even help with insomnia. Breathing correctly through the nose and with the diaphragm activates the parasympathetic nervous system, which is responsible for rest and digestion. Next time you’re feeling stressed and anxious, try out the following breathing exercises to reduce anxiety and boost mindfulness.
Begin by sitting in a comfortable area. Focus on opening the chest and lengthening the spine by sitting tall in your chair. Rest your left hand in your lap and raise the right hand. Place your pointer and middle fingers in the center of your forehead. Inhale and exhale through the nose. Next, use the right thumb to close the nostril on the right side of your face and inhale through the left nostril. Then, pinch the nose with the right thumb and ring finger and hold your breath for just a few seconds. Finally, use the right ring finger to plug the left nostril and exhale through the right nostril. Wait a few moments before inhaling through the right nostril. Pinch the nose closed and hold the breath again. Then, open the left nostril and exhale. Pause before inhaling again. Each cycle should last about forty seconds and you can repeat this cycle as often as ten times.
Focusing your breath is an effective way to breathe anxiety away. Begin by sitting or lying in a comfortable area. Place your hand on your abdomen. As you breathe, your hand should rise with every inhale and fall with every exhale. Close your eyes and breathe deeply through the nose. Blend your breath with a focus word or phrase that can help you relax and visualize that the breath is bringing in a sense of calmness with each inhale. As you breathe out, visualize that the breath exiting your body is taking any anxiety and tension out. Try saying a phrase such as “breathing in calmness” with each inhale and “breathing out negativity” with every exhale. Try to do around ten minutes of breath focus and increase the time until each breathwork session is at least twenty minutes long.
Roll breathing can help you develop lung capacity and improve the rhythm of your breathing. This can be done in any position, but it’s best to start out on your back with your knees bent when you’re still learning. Place your left hand on your stomach and your right hand on your chest. Then, fill the lungs with breath so that your left hand goes up when you inhale. The hand on the chest should remain still. With each breath, breathe in through the nose and out through the mouth. Do this around eight to ten times. Once you have mastered this, you can add the second step. Inhale into your abdomen and then continue inhaling into the chest. The right hand should rise and your left hand will fall as the stomach falls. As you exhale, make a whooshing sound at the same time as the left hand and the right hand fall. When you breathe out, focus on allowing any tension to leave your body, making you more and more relaxed. The movement of your stomach and chest should match the motion of waves rolling. Practice roll breathing for three to five minutes each day. If you feel dizzy or lightheaded while practicing roll breathing, slow down the speed of your breath.
When dealing with anxiety, breathing problems during panic attacks or intense periods of stress are a fact of life. But they don’t have torule your life. Mouth tape can help you maintain nasal breathing during sleep or at any time of the day. Practice breathing exercises before bed and pop on a SomniFix strip to drift into sleep. Our mouth tape ensures that you maintain a proper lip seal and continue nasal breathing even in your dreams.
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