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Does Breathing Help Anxiety?

Would you like to soothe yourself with your breath? Shamash shares some breathing techniques to ease anxiety.

Hello, it's Shamash here.

I've been asked the question,

does breathing help anxiety?

So first of all, if you're

feeling overwhelmed with anxiety

right now, sorry to hear that.

You're certainly not alone.

I've been there.

And even as a full-time mindfulness

teacher and trainer, I often find

myself experiencing anxieties as

I experience all the different

challenges that I faced in my life.

Now this question about

breathing, I love this question.

I guess the question is can breathing

exercises help with reducing

the anxiety and, and if so, how?

Now, there's a close relationship,

I would say, between your

breath and your stress response.

In fact, if you breathe in a rapid and

shallow way, you can actually induce a

sense of stress and a feeling of anxiety.

And on the flip side, when you engage

in slow, deep breathing, your nervous

system automatically begins to relax.

It's an easy physical way to turn

up the dial on relaxation and

to reduce the dial on stress.

So the simple answer is yes,

deep breathing can help to

lower your feelings of anxiety.

And when you combine the deep

breathing together with mindful

awareness, you may find it's even

more soothing and beneficial.

Now I want to give a little side note

and I've mentioned before that with

anxiety, one of the problems is when

we try too hard to avoid the feeling.

In a sense, it's almost

like a fear of fear itself.

And the more we try to use these

approaches or techniques as a way to run

away from anxiety or get rid of it, it

can kind of tend to chase us actually.

So, think of this more as a way of

being with the anxiety, embracing

it and soothing yourself rather than

from the spirit of trying to avoid.

The essence of mindfulness is

about relating to challenges in a

different way, a way of accepting

the feelings that we're having.

So as you learn this technique, do it

from that spirit of self-kindness and

compassion and a sense of acceptance.

So when you do the deep breathing

technique that I'm talking about today,

your belly actually expands as you breathe

in and contracts as you breathe out.

The reason for this is at the

base of your lungs there's a

muscle called the diaphragm.

And when you breathe deeply, that

diaphragm goes down, it lowers

and it pushes your belly out.

That's why feeling your belly

expanding on your in-breath and

contracting on your out-breath is

actually a sign of deep breathing.

You're encouraging the lovely air to

go deep into the base of your lungs,

nourishing your body with oxygen.

And it's actually a

natural way to breathe.

If you ever see a baby breathing,

you'll notice that their belly

expands and contracts as they breathe.

To do deep breathing, you need

to begin by sitting or lying

down in a comfortable posture.

The other thing you need to do to

prepare for deep breathing is to

ensure your clothing is not too

tight, especially around your waist.

And this is because in deep breathing,

you actually want your belly to

expand out each time you breathe in.

In our culture, we're kind of

encouraged to have a flat belly.

And so some people find themselves

breathing in a shallow way, just,

just breathing in their chest,

which can be part of the cause of

feeling a bit more anxiety, actually.

So I encourage you to welcome your

belly expanding each time you breathe

in, contracting as you breathe out.

Seeing it as a positive sign of

peace, of ease, of relaxation.

If you want to do a little experiment

just to see how powerful deep

breathing can be, begin by thinking

of something, that's actually causing

you a bit of stress at the moment.

And as you start to think about

that cause of your stress, you

may notice that your heart rate

increases and your body tenses up.

Then, try doing the

deep breathing exercise.

Sit or lie down comfortably.

Place one hand on your belly and one hand

on your chest, if that feels good for you.

And breathe in slowly and see if

you can try and make your belly

expand outwards, as you breathe in.

And then breathe out slowly too.

Ideally a hand on your belly will

be moving as you breathe in and out.

And the hand on your chest

will be relatively still.

As you do this, you can actually

try counting in your mind

as you breathe in and out.

I like to count to three as I breathe

in and count to four as I breathe out.

So you can try counting and

see what numbers work for you.

And if you're not into counting, you just

listen to your breath or feel your breath.

That's fine.

See if you can try a few

minutes today, if you can.

Practicing a few minutes a day can

be a really pleasant way to relax

and cultivate mindful awareness too.

It's something that I certainly

enjoy doing from time to time, even

if it's just for a few breaths.

So thanks so much for your

mindful practice today.

Wish you all the best as you

try this breathing practice to

soothe your feelings of anxiety.

I know working through anxiety

certainly isn't easy, so do try

to be extra gentle and kind with

yourself as you go about your day.

Included in

Q&A on Anxiety and Stress null Playlist · 5 tracks

Q&A on Anxiety and Stress

Playlist · 5 tracks4.9

More by this teacher

How Much Anxiety Is Normal?Talk by Shamash Alidina
Shamash Alidina
Shamash Alidina

How Much Anxiety Is Normal?

Talk · 3 mins4.3

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