Ok, so you’ve heard that deep breathing is a powerful tool when anxiety sets in, but what does that really mean? Everyone knows how to breathe, what could someone possibly be doing wrong? Can you really be taught how to use your breath for powerful anxiety relief?
The answer is yes! The deep, controlled breathing necessary to relieve anxiety is a little different. And it does require some practice. I’ve been successfully using the diphragmatic breathing explained below for years now and consider it an incredibly powerful tool in keeping my anxiety at bay.
Read on to learn about the diaphragm and my favorite breathing method.
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Diaphragm breathing is a technique that will allow you to use your diaphragm correctly, and in turn, benefits the body and multiple way, including anxiety relief.
What is the diaphragm?
The diaphragm is large muscle directly beneath your lungs. Like any muscle, regular usage makes it stronger – the more you practice, the stonger it gets and the less energy you’ll expend beathing.
How does the diaphragm work?
As you inhale and exhale, it’s the diaphragm that aids in the lungs filling and expelling air. It contracts as you inhale and fill your lungs with air. As you exhale, it relaxes and pushes air out.
Benefits of Diaphragm Breathing
Practicing this breathing teaches you to use the diaphragm correctly and efficiently.
1. It strengthens the diaphragm muscle.
2. Slows the breathing rate which decreases the amount of energy required to breathe.
3. Decreases oxygen demand.
4. Aids in relaxation, lowering the harmful effects of stress.
5. Lowers heartrate.
6. Can help lower blood pressure.
7. Improves stability of the core muscles (abs).
How to practice diaphragm breathing
Start by getting yourself comfortable – lie down, and with pillows if you like. Close your eyes to help shut out the distractions around you. Relax and focus on your breath as we go through the steps.
1. Place one hand on your chest and the other on your belly, just below the rib cage.
2. Breathe in slowly, pushing air into your belly – you’ll feel your belly rise while your chest remains still.
3. Repeat for 5 to 10 minutes.
4. Aim for 3 or 4 sessions a day, as needed, or until it becomes second nature.
It is normal for this type of breathing to feel weird in the beginning. Many people breathe too shallow, moving only their chest when they breathe.
Want to add a little more to your practice?
Try to maintain a complete focus on your breath.
1. Listen to the sound of the inhale, the air as it fills your lungs.
2. As you exhale, let your breath be heard. Allow an audible slow ‘whoosh’ as the air leaves your body.
3. It may be helpful to imagine good, calming vibes enter your body with each inhale, while your stress and anxious thoughts leave with each exhale. Breathe away that anxiety.
4. Turn it into a mindful experience by adding an essential oil.
5. Try one of these methods for further aid in calming your anxiety:
Try the 4-7-8 method
Using the techniques above:
1. Slowly inhale for 4 seconds.
2. Hold for 7 seconds.
3. Slowly exhale for 8 seconds.
4. Repeat as many times as necessary.
Or the 4-4-4-4 method
Using the same techniques:
1. Slowly inhale for 4 seconds.
2. Hold for 4 seconds.
3. Slowly exhale for 4 seconds.
4. Wait for 4 seconds before inhaling again.
5. Repeat as many times as necessary.
So you’re wondering what my favorite method is? It’s the 4-7-8 method. I prefer the long deep breaths this counts allows. With practice, I learned to use my diaphragm much more efficiently. It did become second nature.
I can – and do – use the 4-8-7 count all the time. The moment I feel any anxiety, I focus on my breath. From trivial things like a full stomach to a stressful situation like driving home in a snowstorm, I have learned to incorporate breathing as a tool.
Don’t be discouraged if it takes some time. The diaphragm is a muscle – it needs training just as any other muscle would.