Diaphragmatic Breathing Technique For Anxiety Sufferers
Use Diaphragmatic Breathing (stomach breathing) for overcoming high levels of anxiety. Learn the techniques of correct breathing.
When overcoming high levels of anxiety, it is important to learn the techniques of correct breathing. Many people who live with high levels of anxiety are known to breathe through their chest. Shallow breathing through the chest means you are disrupting the balance of oxygen and carbon dioxide necessary to be in a relaxed state. This type of breathing will perpetuate the symptoms of anxiety.
The correct breathing technique is called Diaphragmatic Breathing (stomach breathing). We automatically breath this way when we are born. Diaphragmatic breathing uses the diaphragm muscle ( a strong dome shaped muscle) located under our ribs and above our stomach. When we breath in, we push the muscle down, and our tummy moves forward. When we breath out, the diaphragmatic muscle moves back to resting position and our tummy moves back in. There is little or no upper chest movement.
As we grow older many of us change our pattern of breathing and start breathing through our chest. This can be the result of a number of factors such as the pressure on women to have a flat tummy, certain fashions, poor posture, and of course anxiety.
Diaphragmatic Breathing Exercise
To become aware of your breathing, place one hand on your upper chest and one on your stomach. Take a breath and let your stomach swell forwards as you breathe in, and fall back gently as you breathe out. Try to get a steady rhythm going, take the same depth of breath each time. Your hand on your chest should have little or no movement. Try and take the same depth of breath each time you breath in. When you feel comfortable with this technique, try to slow your breathing rate down by putting a short pause after you have breathed out and before you breathe in again. Initially, it may feel as though you are not getting enough air in, but with regular practice this slower rate will soon start to feel comfortable.
It is often helpful to develop a cycle where you count to three when you breath in, pause, and then count to three when you breath out (or 2, or 4 - whatever is comfortable for you). This will also help you focus on your breathing without any other thoughts coming into your mind. If you are aware of other thoughts entering your mind, just let them go and bring your attention back to counting and breathing. If you practice this technique for ten minutes twice a day, and any other time you are aware of your breathing, you will begin to strengthen the Diaphragmatic Muscle and it will start to work normally - leaving you with a nice relaxed feeling.
Anytime in which you are experiencing anxiety, try and remember to breath in the manner describe above, and your anxiety level will decrease. Remember, you cannot be anxious and relaxed at the same time.
Last Updated: 02 July 2016
Reviewed by Harry Croft, MD