3 Tips For Anxiety Using Your Breath

With the holidays happening and COVID cases spiking, I’m sure anxiety is running high around the world, so I wanted to offer you 3 tips you can do ANYWHERE to manage anxiety and stress. These are tips you can do anytime – and no one will even know you’re doing them! 

1. Count Your Breath

This is super simple and something I like to do at night if I can’t sleep. You’ll inhale and think 1, exhale and think 2, inhale 3, exhale 4, and so on. You can either do this continuously, or you can choose a number to stop at and then repeat starting at 1 again. Personally I find that choosing a number to stop and then repeat keeps me more present and accountable because you have to be focused enough to realize you’ve hit that number. Otherwise the exercise starts to fall into the backdrop and thoughts start to creep in and you don’t realize you’re thinking until you’ve gotten to 50 and have no idea how you got there lol.

2. Counting Backwards Using a Phrase

This is an exercise I’ve taken from the Yoga Nidra practice. (If you’re not sure what yoga Nidra is – it’s basically a very guided meditation. If you’re interested in exploring it further I teach it every Tuesday night at 645pm EST on Zoom. You can sign up by clicking here)

The way this exercise works is you’ll choose a number, and then you begin counting backwards from that number. You’ll think the number on the inhales, and on the exhales you’ll think a phrase that is in the present tense as if it’s already happened. Often times I like to use the phrase “I am calm” but you can use others such as “I am happy” “I am healthy” “I am safe” etc. So for example, you would inhale and think 16, exhale and think I am calm. Inhale 15, exhale I am calm, and so on until you get down to 0. If you lose track you can start back over. 

This is one of my favorite exercises for dealing with anxiety and stress, and again I often will do it before going to sleep if I can’t get my brain to shut off.

3. Box Breathing

Basically the way box breathing works is you’ll inhale for the count of 4, hold it for the count of 4, and exhale for the count of 8. Repeat as much as you’d like. 

I find this has a pretty immediate calming effect on my nervous system, but everyone will respond differently. It took me a while to figure out how to inhale and exhale for these counts without things feeling strained or like I wasn’t able to breathe, so if you’re struggling with that at first it’s totally normal. Play around with how quickly or slowly you inhale and exhale.

One reason this one works is because when we make our exhales longer than our inhales it has an immediate affect on our nervous system to calm it down. 

According to a Healthline article another reason box breathing works is because “the slow holding of breath allows CO2 to build up in the blood. An increased blood CO2 enhances the cardio-inhibitory response of the vagus nerve when you exhale and stimulates your parasympathetic system. This produces a calm and relaxed feeling in the mind and body.” 1

All you need for these is your breath, and like I said earlier, no one will even know you’re doing them! Give them a try and let me know in the comments below how it goes and which is your favorite!

Till next time,

Kate

1. https://www.healthline.com/health/box-breathing#benefits

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