Anxiety is a common daily struggle for many. With constant work stress along with competition and comparison fueled by social media, anxiety has become somewhat of a social “norm” in our modern society. In the United States alone, anxiety affects approximately 40 million adults between the ages of 18 to 54, mostly in stressful work and school environments.
Many turn to medicine and doctors, which might seem like the easiest solution. But, what about those who are looking for more independent ways to manage anxiety? Are there easy and practical ways to do so, and do they really work?
The answer is a resounding YES, and it’s as easy as taking three mindful breaths.
Anxiety’s Relationship with Your Breath
Did you know that anxiety is directly related to the way you breathe? Anxiety is an emotional symptom that can be exacerbated or relieved by how you manage your breath. Think about it: when you’re having an anxiety attack, your breathing is very shallow and fast, right? On the other hand, when you’re calm and relaxed, how is your breathing then?
When your mind is stimulated by an arousing emotion (anxiety, in this case), it triggers a chain of responses that turn on your fight-or-flight (sympathetic) nervous system that quicken your breath. When you’re calm and relaxed, however, your brain turns on the rest-and-digest (parasympathetic) nervous system that naturally deepens and lengthens your breathing.
Breathing is science and is extensively connected to the brain via a two-way street. In other words, your emotions alter your breathing, and altering your breathing affects your emotional state too. This means when you can learn how to consciously slow down your breathing, you can actually shift your brain waves from being in an agitated state to being in a relaxed and calm state. In this way, making yourself take slow, deep and mindful breaths can actually trick your brain into releasing calming hormones to combat the feelings of anxiousness.
Try This Breathing Technique:
Imagine your body is like a balloon that slowly inflates and slowly deflates. Keep this image in your mind to get the maximum benefits from this breathing technique.
- Close your eyes and breathe in slowly and deeply through your nose, as if you’re filling your whole body with oxygen.
- Hold your breath for 3 seconds.
- Slow exhale through your mouth like you’re blowing a thin wisp of air, until you have no more air in your lungs to breathe out.
- Repeat 3 times.
Watch this Video Demonstration:
Can you feel your brain is calmer and quieter than when you first started? Depending on the severity of your anxiety, it may take more breaths to quiet your mind. If three breaths is not enough, try five or ten until you can feel your brainwaves calming down.
Just remember: breathing is science. When you learn to control your breath, you can proactively induce a calm, relaxed state within your mind no matter what is happening around you.
This breathing exercise is also great for relieving stress or tension in the body if you have trouble sleeping at night due to hyper mental activity.
For more useful tips and videos on how to use your brain better, visit Brain Education TV’s YouTube channel.
Erin shows overscheduled, overwhelmed women how to do less so that they can achieve more. Traditional productivity books—written by men—barely touch the tangle of cultural pressures that women feel when facing down a to-do list. How to Get Sh*t Done will teach you how to zero in on the three areas of your life where you want to excel, and then it will show you how to off-load, outsource, or just stop giving a damn about the rest.