The breathing exercise for anxiety reduction described in this article will show you how to practice conscious breathing for a calm mind. It’s a simple breathing technique which takes less than 30 seconds to do.
Breathing is one of the automatic things your body does that you might be taking for granted. Kudos if you don’t take breathing for granted.
Breathing is an amazing gift which you can use to benefit your brain, body and mind. Be grateful for the ability to breathe while you still have it and use it to calm your mind.
Unless faced with some respiratory illness or a situation where you lose your breath, you don’t control your breath consciously. It happens automatically.
Therefore, when you control your breath to achieve a certain purpose, it becomes a breathing exercise.
Breathing Calms Your Mind
Often, people recommend taking a deep breath when you’re stressed. There are justifiable reasons for this common advice to “take a deep breath” when under stress.
Scientific studies show you can calm your mind through breathing exercises.
Findings have verified that deep breathing can improve mood and reduce stress.
At times you have to seek resources from an external source to help you calm down. Perhaps music, beautiful scenery, or someone’s company.
But, in situations where these resources for calming down are unavailable, your breath can come in handy.
You are required to make a presentation and your heart is palpitating with anxiety, you are sweating, and you think of not doing it.
All you need to do is take a minute or two to breathe with awareness and calm down. It involves mindfulness since you focus your awareness on the current moment and action of breathing.
An advantage of breathing with awareness is that you can do it any time wherever you are. It’s quick and personal, and when used purposefully, calms the mind.
As long as the conditions are right and you have no breathing problems, breathing exercises can help you feel calmer immediately.
How Breathing Calms your Mind
First, it’s important to understand how breathing helps you to calm negative emotions. The biological processes that guide your breathing are more complex than merely taking air in and out.
The mechanism of breathing and it’s relation to your state of mind is based on the connection and functions of the part of the nervous system.
“Nervous” relates to “nerves.”
Hence, the phrase “calm your nerves” usually refers to composing yourself when you are anxious or worried.
Nervous system definition: the system of neurons, nerves, tracts, and associated tissues that, together with the endocrine system, coordinates activities of the organism in response to signals received from the internal and external environments. APA Dictionary of Psychology.
The parasympathetic nervous system and the sympathetic nervous system make up the autonomic nervous system (ANS). The ANS is made up of the brain and spinal cord.
For the purposes of this article, we’ll focus on the nervous system in relation to breathing.
Parasympathetic Nervous System
This part of the nervous system manages the process of exhaling (breathing out.)
When you breathe out your heart rate slows down.
Self-regulation of breathing makes you calm by slowing down your heartbeat.
Sympathetic Nervous System
The part of the nervous system which manages inhalation (breathing in.)
When you breathe in your heart rate increases.
When you are anxious the sympathetic nervous system prepares you for the so-called fight-or-flight response.
Hence, it keeps you alert and ready for action, rather than calm.
Simple Breathing Exercise for a Calm Mind
From the description of PNS and SNS above, calming your brain requires you to elevate the action of the parasympathetic nervous system (PNS).
In short, you need to extend the process of breathing out.
This breathing exercise will help you to counter the effects of negative emotions, depression and anxiety that may otherwise cause harmful effects.
Follow the steps below:
Take a few conscious breaths for five seconds in your natural rate.
Breathe for five seconds now extending the exhalation so that it is longer than inhalation. Exhale for twice the time it takes to inhale. If you inhale for three seconds, exhale for six seconds.
For instance, inhale while counting 1-2-3-4-5 (inhale 5 seconds)
Exhale while counting 1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8-9-10 (exhale 10 seconds)
Repeat 5 times or until you start experiencing a calm sensation.
Additionally, as you inhale, focus on the major frustration, stress, worry that is currently in your mind. Think of it as you breathe in, and think of it as you breathe out.
Keep in mind that the exhalation should last longer than the inhalation.
Breathing in signifies accepting the stress you are facing. Taking it into your conscious awareness. Breathing out signifies letting it go.
Biologically, you don’t breath in what you breathe out. You breathe in oxygen and breathe out carbon dioxide.
So, when you breathe out the troubling issues in your mind, they go out with that breath.
It may not be easy at first, but with several practice sessions, you’ll be doing it easily any time you need to.
Remember, a calm mind is only a breath away. Therefore, you don’t have to stop breathing when things get tough. You only have to practise breathing for calmness. Controlled breathing is not a one-time cure for anxiety and stress. Make it a habit.
- When you are angry, take time out, and exhale longer than you inhale before you answer or resort to anger outbursts.
- Anxious about speaking to people or someone? Take time to breathe for calmness.
- Worried about the results of your medical test? Exercise controlling your breath to calm your nerves.
Relaxing the body relaxes the mind. Relaxing the mind relaxes the body.
Breathe in calmness.
Breathe out stress.
Life is for living. Keep living. Don’t give up.
Jerath, R., Crawford, M. W., Barnes, V. A., & Harden, K. (2015). Self-regulation of breathing as a primary treatment for anxiety. Applied psychophysiology and biofeedback, 40(2), 107-115.
Perciavalle, V., Blandini, M., Fecarotta, P., Buscemi, A., Di Corrado, D., Bertolo, L., … & Coco, M. (2017). The role of deep breathing on stress. Neurological Sciences, 38(3), 451-458.