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4 Helpful Techniques to Breathe Away Anxiety


Anxiety is a common and often overwhelming experience that affects many people on a daily basis. It can be caused by a variety of factors, such as stress, trauma, or genetics, and can manifest in physical symptoms like rapid heartbeat, sweating, and shortness of breath.


Breathing is an essential part of our physiology and something we do unconsciously all the time. However, when we experience anxiety, our breathing can become shallow and rapid, which can exacerbate our symptoms. By consciously slowing down and deepening our breath, we can help calm our nervous system and reduce our anxiety. These 4 techniques that follow will help combat anxiety and manage stress in a more effective way.


  1. Belly Breathing


There are many different breathing techniques that can be used to manage anxiety, but one of the simplest is deep belly breathing. This technique involves breathing in deeply through your nose, allowing your belly to expand, and then exhaling slowly through your mouth, allowing your belly to deflate.


To practice deep belly breathing, find a comfortable position where you can sit or lie down with your back straight. Place one hand on your belly and the other on your chest. Take a slow, deep breath in through your nose, allowing your belly to expand as you inhale. Hold your breath for a few seconds, then exhale slowly through your mouth, allowing your belly to deflate as you exhale.


Repeat this process for several minutes, focusing on the sensation of your breath moving in and out of your body. Notice when you are practicing this that your lower hand on your belly will feel the rise and fall of your belly as you breathe and your upper hand on your chest will be more still. This means you are doing it properly. Also try and keep your shoulders from rising and falling and allow the movement to come deep within the belly.


2. Box Breathing


Another effective breathing technique for managing anxiety is called box breathing. This technique involves inhaling for a count of four, holding your breath for a count of four, exhaling for a count of four, and then holding your breath for a count of four before starting the cycle again.


To practice box breathing, sit or lie down in a comfortable position with your back straight. Take a deep breath in through your nose for a count of four. Hold your breath for a count of four, then exhale slowly through your mouth for a count of four. Hold your breath for another count of four before starting the cycle again. Repeat this process for several minutes, focusing on the rhythm of your breath.


3. Alternate Nostril Breathing (Nadi Shodhana Pranayama)


Alternate nostril breathing, also known as Nadi Shodhana Pranayama in sanskrit, is a breathing technique that involves alternating the breath through the nostrils, bringing balance to the body and calming the mind. This practice has been found to be effective in reducing anxiety, promoting relaxation, and improving mental clarity.


To practice alternate nostril breathing, find a comfortable seated position with your back straight. You will be using your thumb and your ring finger to close off the flow of each nostril as directed. Inhale through your left nostril for a count of four. At the end of the inhale, use your ring finger to close your left nostril and hold your breath to the count of four. Release your right nostril and exhale to the count of four. Inhale through your right nostril for a count of four, then hold your breath with both nostrils closed for a count of four. Release your left nostril and exhale for a count of four. This completes one round of alternate nostril breathing.


Repeat this process 3-5 times, focusing on the sensation of your breath moving in and out of your body. As you become comfortable with the technique, you can increase the length of your inhales, exhales, and breath holds.


Alternate nostril breathing is believed to bring balance to the two sides of the brain and the nervous system, creating a sense of calm and relaxation. It is also believed to improve mental clarity and concentration, making it a useful practice for those experiencing anxiety or stress.


4. 2:1 Breathing


2:1 breathing, also known as "extended exhale" is a breathing technique that involves exhaling for twice as long as you inhale. This practice has been found to be effective in reducing anxiety, promoting relaxation, and is extremely helpful in supporting sleep initiation. In fact, 2:1 breathing is the first suggestion I offer to my clients with chronic insomnia.


To practice 2:1 breathing, find a comfortable seated position. Inhale through your nose for whatever count feels natural and not forced, filling your lungs completely with air. Slowly exhale and double the count of whatever your inhale was. For example, if you inhaled to a count of three, you will exhale to a count of six. Repeat this process for several rounds, focusing on the sensation of your breath moving in and out of your body.


As you become comfortable with the technique, you can increase the length of your inhales and exhales, such as inhaling for a count of four and exhaling for a count of eight. However, it's important to always start with a comfortable pace and not push yourself too hard, as this can cause more anxiety.


2:1 breathing is believed to activate the parasympathetic nervous system, which is responsible for promoting relaxation and reducing stress. By extending your exhale, you can activate this response and help calm your mind and body. Incorporating 2:1 breathing into your daily routine will provide you a powerful tool that can help calm your mind and body, reduce stress, help you fall asleep, and improve your overall well-being.


In conclusion, breathing techniques are a powerful tool for managing anxiety and promoting relaxation. Whether you choose to practice belly breathing, box breathing, alternate nostril breathing or 2:1 breathing, taking a few minutes each day to focus on your breath can help calm your mind and body, reduce stress, and improve your overall well-being.


These techniques can be done anywhere and at any time, making them a useful tool for those experiencing anxiety or stress. Remember to start with a comfortable pace and not push yourself too hard, and with regular practice, you can find relief from anxiety through the simple act of breathing.

I would love to know what my readers are the most interested in seeing each week. Please drop me a line telling me what interests you most. Do you have something really interesting you would like me to share? I would love to hear about it!



-Susan Ginsberg, Stop and Breathe





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1 Comment


Lewis Harvey
Lewis Harvey
Jun 07, 2023

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