8 Respiratory Tests You Can Try When You Feel Anxious
If you are feeling anxious because of anxiety, there are ways you can try to relieve symptoms and begin to feel better.
Let’s look at a few things you can do at any time during your day or build yourself up to longer.
1. Stretch your exhale
Deep sniffing may not always silence you. Deep breathing is connected to a sympathetic nervous system, which controls the fight-or-flight response. But exhalation is associated with the parasympathetic nervous system, which affects our body’s ability to relax and calm down.
Taking too much breath too quickly can cause hyperventilation. Hyperventilation lowers the amount of oxygen-rich blood flowing to your brain.
When we feel anxious or under pressure, it is easier to breathe harder and end up hyperventilating – even if we try to do the opposite.
- Before inhaling large, deep air, try to exhale completely. Push all the air into your lungs, and let your lungs do their job of breathing air.
- Next, try to spend more time breathing than you can smell. For example, try breathing for four seconds, then exhale for the sixth time.
- Try this for two to five minutes.
This procedure can be done in any position that suits you, including standing, sitting, or lying down.
2. Abdominal breathing
Breathing from your diaphragm (the muscle that lies beneath your lungs) can help reduce the amount of work your body needs to do to breathe.
To learn to breathe from your diaphragm:
- For comfort, lie on the floor or in bed with pillows under your head and knees. Or sit in a comfortable chair with your head, neck, and shoulders relaxed, and your knees bent.
- Then, place one hand under your ribs and one hand over your heart.
- Inhale and exhale through your nose, observing how your stomach and chest move or when you breathe.
- Can you separate your breath to bring deep air into your lungs? What about the reverse? Can you breathe so that your chest moves above your abdomen?
Finally, you want your stomach to move as you breathe, instead of your chest.
- Sit or sleep as described above.
- Place one hand on your chest and the other on your abdomen somewhere above the belly button.
- Breathe in through your nose, and see your abdomen rise. Your chest should always be quiet.
- Rub your lips and take it out of your mouth. Try to tighten your abdominal muscles to release air at the end of the breath.
For this type of breathing to occur automatically, you will need daily practice. Try to do the exercise three or four times a day for up to 10 minutes.
If you have not used your diaphragm to breathe, you may feel tired at first. It will be easier to get used to though.
3. Respiratory focus
When deep breathing is concentrated and slow, it can help reduce anxiety. You can do this by sitting or sleeping in a quiet, comfortable place. Then:
- Notice how it feels when you breathe and breathe normally. Scan your body mentally.
You may feel stress in your body that you have never noticed.
- Take a deep breath, deep with your nose.
- Watch your stomach and upper body grow.
- Breathe in any way that is comfortable for you, moaning if you will.
- Do this for a few minutes, paying attention to the height and fall of your abdomen.
- Choose a word to focus on and pronounce it as you exhale. Words like “take refuge” and “calm down” may be helpful.
- Think of your breath washing over you like a gentle wave.
- Think of your exhale carrying negative and irritating thoughts and power away from you.
- When you are upset, return your attention to your spirit and your words gently.
Practice this process for up to 20 minutes daily if you can.
4. Equal breathing
Another form of respiration from the ancient practice of pranayama yoga is equal breathing. This means that you inhale the same amount of time as you exhale.
You can practice breathing evenly while sitting or lying on the floor. Whichever place you choose, make sure you are comfortable.
- Close your eyes and pay attention to how you usually breathe several breaths.
- Then, slowly count 1-2-3-4 as you breathe through your nose.
- Exhale to get the same number of four seconds.
- As you inhale and exhale, remember the feeling of fullness and emptiness in your lungs.
As you continue to practice breathing equally, your second number may vary. Be sure to hold your breath and exhale in the same manner.
5. Respiratory breathing
Respiratory breathing, also called accompanying breathing, can help you reduce anxiety and get you into a relaxed state. Personal experiment:
- Lie down and close your eyes.
- Breathe slowly through your nose, mouth closed, for six seconds.
- Do not fill your lungs with too much air.
- Exhale for six seconds, letting your breath out slowly and slowly. Do not force it.
- Continue for up to 10 minutes.
- Take a few more minutes to calm down and focus on how your body feels.
Yogic Breath (pranayama)
Yoga is a healthy lifestyle with ancient roots, and breathing is at the heart of every yoga revolution.
One type of yoga, pranayama, involves a wide variety of breathing techniques that can help with anxiety. Some of these include shortness of breath and equal breathing (both shown above), as well as lion breathing and other nasal breathing (Nadi short).
6. The spirit of a lion
The breathing of a lion involves the exhalation of force. Trying the Lion’s Spirit:
- Enter the kneeling position, cut off your ankles, and place on the floor at your feet. If this position is uncomfortable, stay in touch.
- Bring your hands to your knees, extend your arms and fingers.
- Breathe through your nose.
- Breathe in with your mouth, allowing yourself to say “ha.”
- During exhalation, open your mouth as wide as possible and stick out your tongue, stretching it toward your chin as far as it will go.
- Focus on the middle of your forehead (third eye) or the end of your nose while exhaling.
- Relax your face as you inhale again.
- Repeat the practice up to six times, changing the cross of your ankles when you reach the halfway point.
7. Alternate nostril breathing
To try alternate nostril breathing, sit down in a comfortable place, lengthening your spine and opening your chest.
Rest your left hand in your lap and raise your right hand. Then, rest the pointer and middle fingers of your right hand on your forehead, in between the eyebrows. Close your eyes, inhaling and exhaling through your nose.
- Use your right thumb to close the right-hand nostril and inhale slowly through the left.
- Pinch your nose closed between your right thumb and ring finger, holding the breath in for a moment.
- Use your right ring finger to close your left nostril and exhale through the right, waiting for a moment before you inhale again.
- Inhale slowly through the right nostril.
- Pinch your nose closed again, pausing for a moment.
- Now, open the left side and exhale, waiting a moment before you inhale again.
- Repeat this cycle of inhaling and exhaling through either nostril up to 10 times. Each cycle should take up to 40 seconds.
8. Guided meditation
Some people use guided meditation to alleviate anxiety by interrupting patterns of thinking that perpetuate stress.
You can practice guided meditation by sitting or lying in a cool, dark, comfortable place and relaxing. Then, listen to calming recordings while relaxing your body and steadying your breathing.
Guided meditation recordings help take you through the steps of visualizing a calmer, less stressed reality. It can also help you gain control over intrusive thoughts that trigger anxiety.
If you’re experiencing anxiety or panic attacks, try using one or more of these breathing techniques to see if they can alleviate your symptoms.
If your anxiety persists or gets worse, make an appointment with your doctor to discuss your symptoms and possible treatments. With the right approach, you can regain your quality of life and control over your anxiety.
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