At the moment, it’s pretty common to hear even the calmest of your friends and family admit, “I am stressed, I am overwhelmed, and I have really bad anxiety right now”. With health concerns, financial insecurities, heaps of information being thrown at us 24/7, and the uncertainty of when this pandemic is going to end, there is far too much tension in the air right now.
Luckily, there is a very simple and extremely valuable way to help us cope with the overstimulation we are all experiencing: adopting a calming breathing practice.
How Breathing Affects Anxiety
When we are anxious, our breathing tends to become short, fast, and uneven. This shallow breathing increases carbon dioxide in the blood supply, which leads to upsetting symptoms such as tingling, irregular heartbeat, and light-headedness. These symptoms do nothing but perpetuate the panic one is already suffering.
A breathing practice triggers the parasympathetic nervous system, which promotes a state of serenity and calm. It also increases oxygen levels, which improves your cognitive function and counteracts those horrible symptoms caused by too much carbon dioxide. A breathing practice is also a form of useful distraction, giving us a task to focus on when our mind is all but out of control.
An Effective Breathing Method
There are many controlled breathing techniques available to us, but there is a standard formula followed by most. It’s pretty simple: breathe in deeply through the nose for a certain count, hold the breathe for a certain count, exhale through the mouth for a certain count, and then repeat. The most widely accepted breathe count is 4-7-8: breathe in for a count of 4, hold for a count of 7, and then exhale for a count of 8. Of course, it is important to be as comfortable as possible during this exercise, so it’s ok to tweak these numbers depending on your comfort. To get the most out of your session, be sure you are not breathing into your chest, instead opting to breathe deep into the belly. Repeat the breathing cycle for as long as you need to quell your worries and enter into a state of composure.
How Often Should You Practice?
As with any new skill, mastery is achieved through practice. Try to effectively breathe twice a day for 5-10 minutes. Not only will this build competence that will benefit you during moments of heightened panic, but it is an excellent practice to add to your daily routine to help you improve your overall well-being.
Not too keen on the method presented in this article? Take the time to do a quick internet search for other breathing tools. With limitless articles, videos, and expertise out there, you are sure to find a practice that caters to your preferences and helps you improve your life.