Back to Blog
Woman breathing deeply

Breathing to hack your anxiety

Jul 02, 2020

When you experience anxiety or panic attacks, you tend to engage in chest breathing, resulting in an imbalance between the oxygen you inhale and the carbon dioxide that you exhale, which causes your brain to send “danger” signals to your body. You may feel breathless and experience physiological reactions (rapid heart rate, tingling, muscle tension, sweaty hands, etc.) that make you even more anxious. Anticipating those symptoms does not help, so you live in a state of worry.

 Breathing techniques can alleviate your symptoms so you can start feeling better. Inhaling deeply may not always calm you down. Taking a deep breath is linked to the sympathetic nervous system, which controls the fight-or-flight response. Exhaling is linked to the parasympathetic nervous system which influences your body’s ability to relax and calm down. Breathing needs to be slow, with longer exhales, as quick breathing may cause you to hyperventilate, decreasing the amount of oxygen that flows to your brain. It is best to learn techniques on how to breathe and practice daily. Do not wait until you are anxious or worried to breathe systematically. The more you practice, the better prepared you will be to hack your symptoms, so you can reduce your anxiety and those sensations that take your happiness away.

One of the most effective ways to breathe systematically is through belly breathing:

Before you start breathing, try to exhale thoroughly, pushing out the air from your lungs before you start:

  1. Lie down on the floor or your bed, putting pillows under your head and knees. Alternatively, you can sit comfortably in a chair with your head, neck, and shoulders straight but relaxed.
  2. Put one hand over your heart and one hand over your rib cage.
  3. Inhale through your nose, noticing your stomach rise but your chest remaining relatively still.
  4. Hold for a few seconds.
  5. Exhale through your mouth while you engage your stomach muscles to push air out at the end. 

Practice breathing daily, two to three times a day for up to 10 minutes. You may feel awkward at first, even tired, but with practice, breathing will get easier. Breathing is a great anxiety hack. Try it. You will be happy you did.

If your symptoms persist, make an appointment with a mental health professional. We can help you take control of your anxiety and start living a happier, more fulfilled life. We have offices in Miami and Orlando and offer Telehealth services throughout Florida. Contact us today.