8 breathing exercises to help relieve anxiety

Improper breathing patterns can lead to panic attacks, fatigue, anxiety and other disturbances.

Shallow breathing

Contributes to anxiety

Shallow breathing is mostly done from the chest. It causes an upset in the oxygen levels leading to dizziness, muscle tension, heart rate, and other physical sensations

Diaphragmatic or deep breathing

Promotes relaxation

Breathing from the diaphragm or any breathing exercises stimulate the parasympathetic nervous system which helps regulate blood flow, digestion, heartbeat, and breathing.

Chest versus abdominal breathing

How you breathe in and out can have an effect on your stress levels

Bleeding from the chest is referred to as thoracic breathing while bleeding from the diaphragm is referred to as deep breathing or diaphragmatic breathing.

Identify your breathing pattern

Are you breathing right or wrong?

Put one hand on your upper abdomen and the other at the centre of your chest. Breathe in and breathe out. Notice which hand raises the most.

Breathing exercises

A simple breathing exercise can help you get control of your anxiety.

1. Alternate nostril breathing

Block off one nose while you breathe from the other nose

  • Close your eyes and gaze downwards. Put your hand in a fist-like pattern. Keep the thumb exposed.
  • Use your first finger to block out the right nostril.
  • Breath from the left nostril.
  • Block your left nostril with your thumb and exhale through your right nostril
  • Repeat these breathing patterns for up to 10 rounds.
  • If you feel lightheaded, take a break.

2. Breathing through the belly

20 to 30 minutes of daily breathing exercise will reduce stress and anxiety

  • Sit or lie down. Place one hand on your upper chest.
  • Place the other hand on your belly.
  • Allow your body to go into a state of relaxation.
  • Breathe in through your nose slowly. Feel the air moving through your nose and downwards so that you feel your stomach rise.
  • Exhale slowly by keeping your lips pursed.
  • Make sure only your belly rises up and down when you do this breathing exercise

3. Box breathing

Possibly the simplest breathing exercise

  • Exhale while counting to 4. Hold your lungs in an empty state and count 4.
  • Inhale when counting till 4.
    Hold the air in your lungs while counting to 4.
  • Exhale while counting to 4 and repeat the pattern.

4. 4-7-8 breathing technique

Referred to as relaxing breath
Acts as a natural tranquilizer for the nervous system

  • Sit straight
  • Press your tongue against the tissue behind your upper front teeth throughout the exercise duration.
  • Exhale through your mouth. You will make a whooshing sound.
  • Close your mouth and inhale through your nose. Count till 4.
  • Hold your breath till you count 7.
  • Exhale through your mouth making sound and count to 8.

5. Mindful breathing

Breathing exercise and meditation mashed in one.

  • Select a sound or a word or a phrase to silently repeat as you exhale and inhale.
  • The sound can be ‘OM’, the word can be ‘peace’, the phrase can be ‘breathe in calmness and release the stress’.
  • Be in the present
  • Whenever you notice that your mind is drifting, take a deep breath and gently bring your band back to the present, the word, the phrase or the sound at hand.

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