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Breathing Techniques For Anxiety

Anxiety can cause hyperventilation (excessive breathing), which disrupts levels of carbon dioxide in the body and can lead to shortness of breath, chest pain, lightheadedness and a range of distressing symptoms.

Breathing exercises can help by returning levels of carbon dioxide to normal, reducing physical tension and creating a sense of calm in the mind.

Abdominal Breathing

Shallow breathing increases hyperventilation, worsens anxiety and can cause chest pain. Abdominal breathing, also known as diaphragmatic breathing, uses the diaphragm to slow, lengthen and deepen the breath. It also helps to prevent panic attacks and related symptoms. 

Start by lying down with one hand on your chest and the other hand on your belly. Breathe deeply into your abdomen, then breathe out slowly and fully through your mouth. When you breathe in and out, the hand on your belly should rise and fall, while the hand on your chest should remain still. This is how you know that you are breathing into your abdomen, rather than breathing into your chest.

Long Out-Breath

Breathing out for longer than usual helps to balance carbon dioxide levels more quickly. There are many different techniques that can be used to achieve this, but, as a general rule, try to make your out-breath twice as long as your in-breath. For example, if you breathe in for a count of four, you should try to breathe out for a count of eight. 

Start by sitting in a comfortable position and loosening any tight clothing that may restrict your breathing. Take a slow, deep breath, counting the number of seconds it takes to fully inflate your lungs. Next, exhale slowly through pursed lips, aiming to breathe out for twice as long as it took to inhale.

Box Breathing

Box breathing, also known as four-square breathing, is a technique used by many athletes to quickly reduce stress and promote a sense of calm. When practiced on a regular basis, it can be extremely useful for people with generalized anxiety disorder.

Start by fully expelling all of the air from your lungs. Next, breathe in for a count of four. Hold your breath for a count of four, then exhale for a count of four. Finally, hold your breath for another count of four. Continue breathing this way for at least two minutes.

Breathing techniques can be highly effective at reducing anxiety and related symptoms. They can also help to treat anxiety disorders, when used regularly. Practicing breathing techniques every day is one of the best tools for preventing anxiety.

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