The Best Breathing Techniques for Anxiety

The breath is a powerful thing. Not only does it nourish and ground the body, but it can also calm your nervous system and help kick anxiety to the curb. Best of all, breathing exercises can be performed anywhere, anytime, and without drawing attention to yourself. The next time you find yourself feeling anxious or stressed, try these best breathing techniques for anxiety.

The Best Breathing Techniques for Anxiety

Alternate-Nostril Breathing

the best breathing techniques for anxiety people doing alternate nostril breathing technique for anxiety

Alternate-nostril breathing is a technique that’s commonly used in yoga to help reduce stress, lower blood pressure and restore balance to the nervous system.

Although this exercise can be a little complicated at first, you’ll quickly get the hang of it. It’s best to practice this technique while in a seated position. 

  • Start by getting your right hand into the appropriate position. Next, bend your first and middle fingers towards your palm. Your thumb, ring, and pinky fingers should be extended.
  • Soften your gaze or close your eyes.
  • Now, use your thumb to block your right nostril and inhale through your left nostril.
  • Pause at the top of the inhale. Then, remove your thumb, and use your ring finger to block your left nostril.
  • Exhale through your right nostril.
  • Now, inhale through your right nostril, and repeat the cycle.

Start with just a few rounds, and then take a break to assess how you feel. If you’re feeling lightheaded at any point, stop and return to your normal breathing pattern.

Eventually, you can work your way up to ten rounds or more of this breathing practice.

Belly Breathing

Belly breathing, also known as deep breathing, can be really effective for anxiety. The American Institute of Stress says that just 20-30 minutes of belly breathing each day can help with stress and anxiety.

To practice this breathing technique, try to find a quiet place where you can sit or lay down on your back.

  • Place one hand on your belly and the other on your upper chest.
  • Begin by breathing in slowly through your nose. 
  • Notice how your other hand rises and moves inward toward your spine.
  • Pause at the top of the inhale.
  • Slowly exhale through your open mouth.

It may be difficult to practice belly breathing for 20-30 minutes at first. Try starting with just 5 or 10 minutes and working your way up to longer sessions.

Relaxing Breath

The relaxing breath technique, or 4-7-8 breathing, helps naturally calm the nervous system. If you’re new to this practice, you may want to start by sitting with your back straight. Eventually, you can do this breathing exercise while lying down in bed.

  • Start by taking one big inhale and then exhaling out of your mouth while making a whooshing noise. 
  • Now, close your mouth and inhale through your nose for a count of four.
  • Pause at the top of the inhale for a count of seven.
  • Exhale slowly through your mouth for a count of eight.

Slow, Controlled Inhales and Exhales

the best breathing techniques for anxiety person laying on her back doing controlled breathing for anxiety

Coherent breathing uses slow and controlled inhales and exhales to help shift yourself into a calmer, more relaxed state. 

  • Start by laying down and closing your eyes.
  • Slowly breathe in through your nose for a count of six. 
  • Pause, and then exhale slowly for a count of six. 
  • Continue this cycle for ten minutes.

Take a few minutes to listen to how your body feels after this breathing exercise. Is there tension or stress anywhere in your body? Bring awareness to your body. 

Mindful Breathing

Mindful breathing helps you stay focused on the present moment. By being mindful of your breathing, you bring your awareness to what’s happening here and now.

  • Inhale through your nose. Notice how your belly expands as you breathe in.
  • Slowly and gently exhale through your mouth.
  • Once you’ve gotten into a pattern of breathing in through your nose and out of your mouth, you can focus on each inhale and exhale.
  • Notice how your body feels with each breath in and each breath out.
  • If thoughts start to creep in, notice them and accept them without judgment. Let them go and turn your attention back to your breathing.
  • Continue with your mindful breathing until you feel calmer.

Final Thoughts

If you’re experiencing anxiety and want to reclaim your life, try the best breathing techniques for anxiety listed above. Breathing exercises don’t come with the negative side effects of some medications and can be done for free - anywhere.

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