Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Taking Deep Breaths

One of the easiest things to do when you start feeling anxious is to focus on your breathing. Most people with anxiety tend to breathe in short quick breaths. If your like me, in a horror movie when you get scared you might hold your breath altogether. In movies you see when people start hyperventilating (or taking quick short breaths) they have them breathe out of a brown paper bag. That actually works because it forces you to take deeper breaths because of the lack of oxygen.

So here is a really simple exercise that can help you out tremendously.

  1. At least once a day either when you are anxious or just when you have a time that you can sit and focus, take a deep breath in and as you breath in, count to 4.
  2. Then HOLD YOUR BREATH for a moment.
  3. Release the breath slowly, counting to 4 again (or counting backwards from 4 to 1, whichever you prefer).
  4. Repeat steps 1-3 several times until you feel relaxed and calm, or a 0 on your anxiety scale.

Another tip that you can do while you exhale is to say a phrase or a positive affirmation in your head that is meaningful to you. Something like “this too shall pass” or “I can do this” or “I can take as small a step forward as I choose”; whatever works for you. When you do these actions it forces your body to react in the opposite way you would if you were scared or frightened which in turn can make your anxiety symptoms calm down. It’s also a nice trick you can do no matter where you are, subtly, without having to make a scene. Once you get really good at it, you can do it right in front of someone as they are talking to you and they won’t even notice. I have done this in restaurants, church, in meetings at work, everywhere.

Another form of daily meditation I use in conjunction with the deep breathing is yoga. I have a lot of improving to do myself, especially when things get really busy and hectic, but I know when I make the time for myself to meditate and take deep breaths, I always feel better for it.

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Anonymous said...

There are many things we can do to work on our anxiety. The first is recognizing what it is that we do to ourselves that cause anxiety attacks. Sometimes we feel like they are completely out of the blue, but I bet if you thought about all of them long enough and figured out what you were doing before it happened, what you ate, who you were around, what you were thinking, etc. you would eventually figure out what your "triggers" are. Here are some of most common ones:

Play the What if Game and other negative self talk- Setting Ourselves up for Failure.
Low self esteem- thinking we're not worthy to be around others and be liked for who we are.
Put too much pressure on ourselves to be "perfect" for others or not to have an attack.
Focus on ourselves more than those around us.
Eat poorly, drink a lot of caffeine.
Do not exercise and or meditate regularly.
Full Exposure to our phobias instead of baby steps.
Do not get enough rest at night.
Hold in our feelings.
Anxiety therapytechnique without medications

Amy Karon said...

Hi Aimee,

I discovered your blog a few days ago and was so glad I had: your detailed writing, professionalism and honesty make for great reading.

I included The Reality of Anxiety on a list of blogs that describe what it's like to live with mental illness.

Keep up the great work!


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