Sunday, 30 October 2016

Breathe through anxiety

If you are getting anxious over something- even to the point of having a panic attack- you might notice your breath becoming quick and shallow.  However, this can actually can make your anxiety worse. When you breathe in this way, blood flow to the brain is restricted, causing the brain to trigger 'danger' responses.  Your Sympathetic nervous system is activated, triggering the 'fight or flight' response and the breath becomes even more quick and shallow. However if we can consciously start to take deeper, slower breaths, signalling to the brain that all is well, the Parasympathetic nervous system, sometimes called the rest and digest nervous system takes over and your mind becomes calm.  If you feel anxious or are beginning to panic try taking a few deep breaths through your nose and breathe out slowly through your mouth.  

The problem is that if anxiety becomes chronic, quick shallow breathing can become our habitual way of breathing. The following breathing techniques, practiced regularly, will help prevent and deal with panic attacks by slowing and deepening the breath.  This signals to the brain all is well and your Parasympathetic nervous system takes over.

Abdominal breathing - lie on your back with your knees bent and let your breath settle.  Place your hands on your tummy so that your middle fingers touch at your navel.  Without straining direct the breath to the area under your hands.  Notice how calming this is for your mind. 

Ujjayi breathing - by tightening the throat Ujjayi breathing causes the breath to slow. To practice Ujjayi breathing first try breathing out through your mouth with a 'ha'.  Notice how this causes a tightening in your throat.  Then try tightening the throat in this way as you breathe out through your nose.  Now try to create that tightening as you breathe in as well as when you breathe out.  You should notice the breath makes a sound- some people say it is like a baby snoring, others say it is like the ocean. This sound is also calming for the brain.

Similarly Humming Bee breath calms the mind by setting up a soothing, vibrating sound that permeates the head. To practice Humming Bee breath, breathe in through your nostrils and as you breathe out make a 'hmmmm' sound like a bee. To enhance the effect press lightly on your ears.  

Alternate Nostril Breathing balances left and right hemispheres of the brain and calms the nervous system.  To practice Alternate Nostril Breathing please see 'Oh no, it's Monday - breathing technique for calming'-

You might also like my to view more on anxiety on my YouTube Channel-

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