Better breathing for anxiety


Our breathing rate and pattern of breathing change during an emergency. We begin to breathe rapidly and shallowly from the upper lungs rather than breathing slowly from our lower lungs. if we are not engaged in physical exertion at this time, then it can cause hyperventilation. This, in turn, causes very uncomfortable physical sensations during a panic.

You can change the physical sensation of hyperventilation by changing the way you breathe. You can stimulate the body's parasympathetic response through changes in the rate and pattern of your breathing, this is called the relaxation response. The panic you feel is often called the emergency response, which is the opposite of the relaxation response.

When the relaxation response is triggered, you reverse the physical sensation you feel during the emergency response. 
breathing and heart rate slows
muscle tension decreases
blood pressure decreases
there is a growing sense of calm
oxygen consumption decreases

The emergency response happens quickly, the response is automatically fired, once it is fired it can take time to get back into the relaxed response.

How to calm your breathing

Take a deep slow breath and fill your lungs fully with air. When you do this your lungs push down on your diaphragm causing the stomach area to rise. You should practice this breathing until it becomes a skill.

When you do this breathing properly, your stomach should expand and contract but your shoulders and chest should have little movement. The best way to starting practicing this is to lay on your back on a flat surface, like a bed or on the floor. Place in hand on your chest and the other on your stomach. Breathe in so that the hand on the stomach rises on the other hands remains still and the hand on the stomach lowers as you breathe out.

This can feel quite weird in the beginning until you get used to it, and you may find it difficult to do in the beginning. With time you should become skillful at it. Then in the future whenever you start to feel a bit panicky, just do your calming breathing and you start to create a relaxed response in your body.

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