Anxiety is the result of your body’s stress response. It alters the rate at which your heart beats as well as the rate at which you breathe. It can also cause the muscles of your neck and chest to contract which can lead to a wheezing sound while you breathe.
When you are anxious you tend to breathe shallower and faster. Your body’s stress response does this to ensure that your muscles receive more oxygen. Unfortunately this may lead to a disturbance in your blood’s gas balance which can cause all the unpleasant side effects like light headedness, numb hands and arms, headaches and a general ill feeling.
The opposite reaction to the stress response is the relaxation response and the quickest and easiest way of flipping your body from the stress response into the relaxation response is through breathing exercises. Breathing exercises can be done anywhere without anybody seeing it. You should aim for slow and relaxed breathing through your nose. Below are three easy breathing exercises that will help relieve your anxiety.
Breathing exercise 1:
During a panic attack you should try to focus more on exhaling than inhaling. It should take you twice as long to exhale as to inhale. Take a deep breath counting the seconds it takes you to breathe in (look at a watch if necessary) then breathe out while counting to twice the amount of seconds you inhaled. You can place your one hand on your stomach and concentrate on expanding your abdomen along with your chest while breathing. Continue with this exercise for about 5 minutes.
Breathing exercise 2:
This exercise is basically the same as the first one with the exception that you should now try holding your breath for a few seconds before slowly exhaling. For some people it may be sufficient to only do one of this exercise but others may need to do more.
Breathing exercise 3:
This last exercise should only be done while you are in a stationary position, in other words, you should not be driving. Close your eyes and slowly inhale to the count of three. Open your eyes then breathe out to the count of five but try to focus on your surroundings. Look intently at the color of the dress of someone close to you or to the clouds moving across the sky. Listen to the sounds around you like children laughing or a phone ringing.
Another simple reason why you might not be breathing adequately may be because of your posture. If you are slouching forward you are compressing your lungs and they can’t function to their full capacity when compressed. Just setting the goal of sitting up straight may already improve your anxiety.
A good posture is also important while performing the above exercises. You will find that after doing any or all of the above mentioned exercises that not only will your breathing return to a slow, deep relaxed state but the muscles in your body will start to relax which in turn will relieve your wheezing.
“Breathing to reduce stress.” Better Health Channel. 2011. Vic.gov.au. (November 23, 2012) http://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/bhcv2/bhcarticles.nsf/pages/Breathing_to_reduce_stress
Kennard, Jerry. “Three Breathing Techniques for Anxiety.” Health Central. 2012. Healthcentral.com. (November 23, 2012) http://www.healthcentral.com/anxiety/c/4182/151527/techniques-anxiety?ic=2602