Breathing exercises are very important. They will help you learn to calm your anxiety and promote relaxation in the body and mind. By mastering breathing exercises, we can then limit the effect stress and anxiety will have on our mind and body.
When stressed or anxious our breathing automatically becomes irregular. Many times people are not aware that their breathing patterns can create symptoms within the body that are frightening and this causes more anxiety in the end simply because what the person is feeling is not understood. Another word for over-breathing is hyperventilation.
Hyperventilation does not increase the amount of oxygen in the blood.... instead it reduces the amount of carbon dioxide in the blood. It is the reduced amount of carbon dioxide in the blood that causes the most uncomfortable symptoms in panic attacks. Many people think they are not getting enough oxygen but instead they are getting too much caused by their breathing patterns.
Some symptoms of hyperventilation include but are not limited to:
- feelings of breathlessness
- lightheaded or dizziness
- unreal feelings
- muscle tension
- increased heart rate
- tingling in hand and/or feet
- increased feelings of fear
Although the symptoms of over-breathing (hyperventilation) are physically distressing, they are NOT dangerous. However, when we interpret the symptoms as dangerous, it only increases our fear that something more serious is wrong, causing the person suffering to hyperventilate more and this only prolongs their symptoms and makes them more intense.
It is important to recognize that whether we think about it or not, our bodies breathe - we can actually control our breathing pattern when we recognize the symptoms of hyperventilation in our own bodies. Some people have developed a bad habit of over-breathing, they do it naturally without thinking about it. However, this bad habit can be changed and corrected through proper breathing techniques.
So, whether or not hyperventilation is a result of an anxiety/stress response or a bad habit it can be changed therefore reducing the uncomfortable symptoms a person feels with over-breathing.
Many of the same methods used to treat anxiety disorders also work for depression. CBT (Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy) has also been proven to work for people who are suffering with mild to moderate forms of depression. The Steps To Recovery offers methods you can use at home to help yourself. However, some more serious forms of this disorder require prompt medical attention. People that are unable to function normally in daily activities are advised to seek help from a qualified psychologist. They can obtain a list of qualifying providers through their primary care physician.
To do this follow these simple steps:
1. Find a place where you can sit down comfortably.
2. Focus all your attention on your breathing and notice your pattern.
3. Breathe in slowly for 2 seconds.
4. Breathe out slowly for 4 seconds.
5. Repeat to yourself "relax".
6. Continue until symptoms of over-breathing disappear
There are many other types of breathing methods that also work well. The one I listed above is the basic one that I used because at the time, it was the easiest to remember. Dr. Andrew Weil, a well known physician and author , gives some pretty good advice on other breathing methods that are helpful.