Deep breathing techniques to reduce anxiety

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deep-breathing(NaturalHealth365) Anxiety is a challenging, yet all too common, condition that should never be ignored or taken lightly. Once present, it tends to grow and expand to affect not only state of mind, but physical wellbeing as well. Ironically, worrying about the physical toll that frequent episodes of anxiety can take on your health only feeds into the problem.

One of the most effective, yet simplest, approaches to lessening bouts of anxiety is to engage in deep breathing exercises or techniques, specifically designed for anxiety relief and relaxation. By bringing you into the “present,” deep breathing can do wonders for your overall health.

The “secret” behind deep breathing for optimal health

According to the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, the goal of relaxation techniques is to consciously spark the body’s natural relaxation response, characterized by slower breathing, lower blood pressure, and an overall feeling of calm and wellbeing.

Deep breathing has the opposite effect of taking short, quick breaths, which can lead to hyperventilation, an all-too-common occurrence during bouts of anxiety or panic attack.  In contrast, taking deep breaths actually stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system (PNS).

This is the system responsible for your body’s activities when you are at rest. Your sympathetic nervous system, on the other hand, is associated with the fight-or-flight response. Inhaling deeply and slowly signals to your parasympathetic nervous system that it’s time to calm the body.

Three of the best breathing techniques used to calm anxiety

Belly breathing: If you have ever watched a newborn infant breathe, you have some understanding of belly breathing. With this anxiety-relieving technique, make sure you are relaxed with shoulders down. Then, breathe in deeply and slowly through your nose. As you take breath in, allow you lower belly area to expand, while your chest rises very little.

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It sometimes helps to place one hand on your stomach, the other on your chest, so you can monitor your breathing technique.

Next, slowly exhale through your mouth. As you release your breath, purse your lips somewhat, but do not clench your jaw and keep your tongue relaxed. You should hear a sort of quiet “whooshing” noise as you release your breath and exhale. Hearing this sound is a part of the overall belly breathing relaxation technique, so learn to listen for it.

Inhale and exhale using this technique several times. Try to exhale with long, smooth breaths. This is the key to how this technique works, so give your outgoing breath your full attention.

Practice a few times and you will begin to reap the benefits of this technique.

Measured breath: With the measured breath technique, you can be either sitting or standing, but do so with a relaxed posture. Your hands should be open and relaxed. Do not lock your knees, let your jaw relax and release your shoulders so they drop a bit.

Next, take a breath in slowly, through your nose. Count to four, and allow your belly area to expand as you inhale, while keeping your shoulders relaxed and down. Hold the breath for a few seconds. As you slowly release your breath, count to seven.

Repeat this exercise for several minutes for a relaxing result.

Bumblebee breathing: As its name implies, this technique has you making some noise, so you may wish to be alone when doing it. While that may sound a little odd, this technique has been used over the years to calm the mind and soothe anxiety.

Begin with relaxed shoulders, but this time, close your throat tightly so that you can actually hear your breath coming in. Now, cover your ears with your thumbs and use your fingers to cover your eyes.

While keeping your lips tightly closed, let your teeth move just a little bit apart, while keeping your jaw relaxed. Now, breathe out slowly, making a low humming sound. Try to keep your exhales long and smooth, like the other techniques.

Repeat this five or 10 times. Now, sit and relax, taking long slow breaths to complete the exercise.

Anxiety and chronic stress are truly the underlying causes of disease.  Naturally, besides deep breathing, eating a chemical-free (organic) diet, minimizing your exposure to wireless technology and keeping the body physically active will minimize your need for toxic medications and leave you feeling great!

Sources for this article include:

Harvard.edu
Webmd.com
Mayoclinic.org
NIH.gov