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How Does Breathwork Help With Anxiety?

Finding ways to cope with anxiety can be overwhelming, and finding what is right for you can be a process. A good starting point is to practice breathwork. This practice can help ease your stress and directly target negative feelings over a long-term practice. 

What Is Breathwork?

Breathwork can be practiced daily at any time; it does not need to be practiced exclusively in a meditative setting. However, it is beneficial to start breathwork in meditation in order to develop a good sense of control over your breathing and recognize which patterns enhance your mood and relieve your anxiety the best. This practice works in regulating your breath, directly impacting your mental and physical well-being. 

Other terms to describe this practice are “diaphragmatic breathing” and “deep breathing.” This breathing works with deep inhale and exhale patterns. Alongside understanding and controlling your inhale and exhale patterns, you learn to shift your anxious, upper-chest breathing to abdominal, lower diaphragm breathing. 

How Does Breathwork Help With Anxiety?

Slow breathing techniques connect back to your central nervous system. Your breath is linked to your mental functioning and well-being. 

Breathwork encourages a meditative consciousness, focusing yourself on the present moment in a calmer way. Rather than tackling the day with an overwhelming, anxious mindset, breathwork helps ease and relieve these feelings to center yourself. Practiced breathing also helps you develop a clearer mindset, not letting your anxious thoughts cloud your perspective. 

After practicing this coping mechanism for a long period of time, your breath becomes more regulated, and the practice becomes easier. Regulation with breathwork encourages an overall calmer mindset. 

When you are in a high-stress or anxious state, your breathing naturally shortens, and you may experience tightness in your chest. Not attempting to control this breath or letting this go unregulated for an extended period of time can actually increase anxiety and disrupt processes in the body. Instead, regular breathwork practice can be applied here, where you notice these anxiety symptoms and learn to take control. You are more capable of controlling your breath, focusing on each inhale and exhale while ignoring the external factors causing your anxiety. 

Stress can be reduced with diaphragm-focused breathing, as this breathwork helps the body relax and can long-term encourage other health benefits. This relaxation can improve blood pressure, heart rate, stress hormones, lactic build-up, the balance of oxygen and carbon dioxide, immune system functioning, physical energy, and calmness. 

How Do I Start Practicing Breathwork?

When first starting out, it is important to notice what events or actions trigger your anxiety. Once you are able to determine when you experience anxious or overwhelming feelings, you can begin regulating your breath during these moments. 

It is recommended to begin with an undisturbed 10-20 minutes of practice. This helps you to understand your breathing pattern and encourages regulation of it. In your undisturbed environment, there should be quietness, and you should feel comfortable wherever you are.

Focus on your rib cage expanding with each breath, breathing in and out of your nose. With each expansion, you should focus on feeling your breath fill your lungs. At times it is applicable to inhale through your nose and take a long exhale out of your mouth. It is also recommended to inhale deeply for a count of four and exhale for a count of eight. 

Another way to control and regulate your breath is by noticing how many breaths per minute you take. In a high-anxiety state, your breaths can increase drastically. While in a meditative state, it is recommended to control your breath to reach about four to six breaths per minute. 

Once you have a strong breath foundation for a few minutes, begin to associate each exhale with releasing tension. Let all of your negative thoughts and feelings melt away with each exhale. Eventually, after an extended period of time, you will find yourself more stabilized in the present moment and have more control over your breathing and thoughts. 

After a few sessions, ideally practiced multiple days in a row for roughly 20 minutes, you should have a better understanding of a breath pattern that works for you. The next step in breathwork is to apply these patterns and breath regulations to in-the-moment anxious occurrences. 

If you notice your anxiety heightens in social settings, before answering a phone call or attending a large social event, practice a few deep breaths and find control over your breathing. When you realize you have control, you are more capable of easing your anxiety.

It is important to remember that your typical stress response of tight chest breathing is normal and okay. If you can recognize this habit, you are able to control it and bring yourself out of a high-stress state with focus and dedication. Your breath has the power to encourage relaxation. 

Another recommendation when starting breathwork is to consult with your doctor or a psychologist/specialist for a more specified process to start out with. Breathwork should be a tool used alongside other treatment plans or coping mechanisms. 

Here at Sage Recovery, we offer accessible services to help individuals cope with anxiety and feelings of high stress. We hope to encourage people to practice other coping mechanisms alongside the rest of their treatment plans. We prioritize individuals taking control of their mental health and working towards bettering themselves in a way that is natural and comfortable for them. By taking control of your anxiety, you are more capable of taking control of your life – something we value here at Sage Recovery. We provide guidance and coping mechanisms that will improve mental health as well as long-term physical health. Contact us at (512) 306-1394 to learn more about our services.