2020 wasn’t exactly the most uplifting time. The stress of world events combined with financial uncertainty and upheaved plans can sometimes feel like too much. If you’re feeling overwhelmed and anxious (or if your anxiety has graduated to a full-blown panic attack) there are useful breathing exercises to ease anxiety and panic attacks so you can stay grounded and positive.
Calming Breathing Exercises
Feeling dizzy, short of breath, or nauseous due to anxiety? Start by taking a long, slow breath in through the nose. Fill your lower lungs first, and then your upper lungs. Hold to a three-count and exhale very gradually through pursed lips, while relaxing facial and stomach muscles.
Abdomen Breathing Exercises
Your diaphragm is the muscle sitting directly below your lungs. If you breathe from this area, you can often reduce the effort needed to breathe. Lie down on the floor and place on hand on the rib cage with the other over the heart, trying to isolate breathe into the stomach rather than the chest. Big belly breaths involve a lot of body awareness, so you may want to practice these breathing exercises by pushing the breath out and watching the stomach rise while the chest stays still.
Alternate Nostril Breathing
Sit cross-legged and raise your left hand, resting index and middle finger in the space between your eyebrows. Keep eyes closed and breathe in and out slowly. On your next exhale, using your thumb, close one nostril and inhale through the other. Now, block the other nostril with your ring finger, and exhale through the opposite one. Repeat this switching pattern 10 times.
This is actually a modified take on Lion’s Breath. Many of us carry tension in our jaw without realizing it, and can sometimes even grind teeth as a result of anxiety. Start sitting with the spine in neutral and taking a deep inhale through the nostrils. Fill up your diaphragm and when you’re at the max point of your inhale, exhale through the mouth, opening wide and stretching your jaw open as you loudly exhale like a lion.
Many of us have heard of this exercise but don’t know the steps on how to implement it. First, empty the air from your lungs. Now, breathe in gently through your nose for 4 seconds. Hold this for 7 seconds. Now, exhale with force through pursed lips, exhaling with the sound of a “whoosh” for an 8 count. Repeat this until you feel calmer.
This is like a visualization practice combined with breathing exercises, which are known to be very effective. In it, you envision a picture and a phrase or word that makes you feel more relaxed. As you think of your favorite word and place, close your eyes and take several deep breathes. As you inhale, visualize the air is filling you with peacefulness. On the exhale, imagine the air leaving your body is stress and negativity exiting you. Do this for 10 minutes.