Deep breathing to help anxiety is something most of us have heard about a lot. Especially if you suffer from chronic anxiety. Like a lot of things, there’s some truth to its claims of helpfulness, but there are bits of information that get lost in the thousands of reiterations of the idea.
Deep breathing never really did much for me over the years, on the occasions I gave it a shot, except make me light headed. I usually felt like I was just hyperventilating.
The trick to deep breathing that will actually help and not just make you dizzy, is to hold the air in. You’re forcing yourself to not simply breath in and out deeply (sometimes too deeply) but to actually physically slow down.
I honestly can’t recall all the specifics behind why this works, and I’m sure that information is readily available online, but I do know that it has been working for me for the past couple years. The holding of the breath, I know, is important because of something to do with getting that vital oxygen well into your blood stream and up to your brain.
What I do is breath in for about three seconds… not too strict with this, but the point I think is to not take too shallow or too deep a breath, but sort of natural inhalation. Then… hold it. For three seconds. Three seconds. One. Two. Three. Then, as naturally as possible, exhale. Not too hard, not too controlled, but let your lungs press the air out. And repeat a few times, as often as necessary.
I first started doing this to start my day. First thing upon waking, I would do some of these breaths. Whether I’ve just woken up or am feeling my chest tighten with anxiety, this breathing exercise always clears my mind, seems to actually sharpen my vision, and relaxes me.
Give it a try next time you feel anxious or just need to clear your head.