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©2019 BY DR. CLARE ALBRIGHT, PSY.D., CLINICAL PSYCHOLOGIST - CA  LICENSE PSY11660

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Deep Breathing to Cope with Anxiety


Breathing Could Be the Best Method to Cope with Anxiety and Stress

Diaphragmatic Breathing for Stress and Anxiety: How Does it Work?


Consider how differently you breathe when stressed versus when you’re relaxed. Normally deep and satisfying breaths can quickly become short and shallow when you’re experiencing an anxiety or stress event.


The way that a person draws breath relates to how they feel, so doesn’t it make sense that intentionally taking in deep breaths when anxious could help promote better feelings?


Of course, it isn’t as black and white as that might make it seem. Deep breathing can’t miraculously cure a person of an anxiety problem, but it can help them to push through a particularly stressful moment or even a panic attack in less time.


This article will help you to fully understand the power of deep, intentional breathing for this purpose.


Breathing exercises are easy and free to learn. They are also a great tool for anybody to have at their disposal, even if they don’t deal with overwhelming stress or anxiety very often.



Taking a Deep Breath to Calm Anxiety and Stress


How to Use Deep Breathing to Lessen Stress and Anxiety


First, you need to teach yourself the patterns involved in deep breathing. This is actually very simple.


· Find a place that is comfortable. A lot of people like to lie down on a bed or couch for this purpose, but you can perform deep breathing while sitting or standing.

· Breathe in, deeply, through your nose. Let your belly rise as your lungs fill with air.

· Breathe out slowly, through your nose.

· As you do this, place a hand on your belly and a hand on your chest. When you are properly practicing deep breathing, the hand on your stomach will move more than the hand that’s resting on your chest.

· Repeat these steps three or four more times.


Many stress and anxiety sufferers like to incorporate a mental incantation, like a phrase or image, to help them push through their negative emotions and concentrate on their breathing. It is also common for people to associate the air that they take in as a symbol of their stress and worry. When they breathe out, they feel as if they are expelling this negativity from their bodies.



Breathing is a Powerful Tool to Calm Anxiety



It helps to have a mantra like this. So, once you have gotten accustomed to the pattern of breathing necessary for this to be successful, it’s time to take things up a notch in terms of effectiveness.


Instead of exhaling through your nose, exhale through your mouth while either saying or thinking your personal mantra. An example of this might be, “I release my tension,” or “I let go of my anxiety.” Whatever helps you feel better in these moments is perfectly appropriate for this purpose.


This exercise can be implemented anytime, anywhere. Once you know the breathing pattern necessary to do this successfully, you can use it whenever you are beginning to feel overwhelmed.


This allows you to slow down, focus on something other than the stimuli causing you distress, and clear your head long enough for you to make decisions that aren’t based on stress or worry.


If you experience frequent and persistent stress and anxiety events that impact your ability to perform day-to-day tasks, pursuing the help of a cognitive behavioral therapist – in addition to deep breathing – can be tremendously helpful. Deep breathing is a way to cope with an experience, but it is not a cure nor is it a long-term treatment plan for stress or anxiety.


Persistent problems of this nature should be addressed with more long-term treatment focus in mind. However, deep breathing exercises will help you to recover from your stress or anxiety-filled moments and return to a state where you can function.

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