If you deal with chronic anxiety, I’m sure you’re aware that it can strike without warning. After a while of living that way, if you start to feel a symptom of your anxiety coming on, you can go from mildly anxious to a panic attack in a matter of seconds. Before long after that, it can be easy to be anxious simply about becoming anxious, and then what do you do?
The best way to control your anxiety symptoms is by learning abdominal breathing. People who struggle with anxiety tend to chronically hyperventilate, and this causes carbon dioxide to leave their body very quickly. When this happens, blood pH changes, and the body responds by getting dizzy, lightheaded, and producing the symptoms of panic attacks. So learning to deepen and slow breathing stops hyperventilation and lowers the possibility of having any anxiety symptoms. To deepen and slow your breathing, you have to get air down to the bottom of your lungs, and this requires abdominal breathing.
Most people, anxious or not, tend to breathe by allowing their ribcage to rise and expand. This is inefficient – it uses only part of the lungs and requires more muscles to breathe. The proper way to breathe is by allow the ribcage to expand and sink. This is called abdominal breathing, because the lower ribs & abdomen are the part of the body that moves with the breath.
Learning Abdominal Breathing
If you’ve never practiced abdominal breathing before, it can seem strange and difficult. With 5-10 minutes of practice a day though, you can gradually deepen your breathing and regain control over anxiety symptoms.
To begin, place one hand on your chest and find the point where, when you breathe, you have the most movement of your rib cage. Once you have that place, move your hand down toward your belly button about 1-2 inches and breathe with the intention of expanding out the part of your body that your hand is touching. If you can breathe this way with your palm within 2-3 inches of your navel, switch to the back. Form a gun shape with each hand using your thumb and forefinger, and place the hands behind you so that the forefingers touch the spine at the base of the ribcage. Breathe with the intention of separating the fingers.
As you practice, focus on making a slow, clean exhale. Stop the exhale when comfortable, and then allow your body to tell you when to start and stop inhaling. If you feel the need to yawn or have any anxiety symptoms begin, stop and allow your body to relax. This is a sign that your body needs to return to subconscious breathing for a few minutes. At this point it’s best to go about your day and practice again tomorrow.
Need help managing your anxiety? Schedule a consultation and let us help you today!