Feeling like you can’t catch your breath is one of the most common of all anxiety symptoms. Shallow breathing means that the lowest part of the lungs doesn’t get a full share of oxygen. This can make you feel short of breath and anxious.
Deep breathing also known as abdominal breathing is much more preferable. It takes a lot of practice, as many of us breathe into our chest when we’re anxious instead of into our stomach. But can really help reduce anxiety symptoms.
Abdominal breathing or belly breathing
The aim of abdominal breathing is to use your lungs fully and to get in touch with the rhythm of your breathing.
- Make yourself as comfortable as you can. Try to completely relax your muscles. If you are sitting place your arms on the chair arms. If you are sitting or standing place both feet flat on the ground.
- If you are lying down place your arms a little bit away from your sides, with the palms of your hands facing up. Let your legs be straight, or bend your knees so your feet are flat on the floor.
- Place your left hand on your stomach and your right hand on your chest. Notice the way your hands move as you breathe in and out.
- Fill your lungs by breathing so that your left hand goes up when you inhale and your right hand remains still. Be sure to breathe in through your nose and breathe out through your mouth. Some people find it helpful to count slowly from one to five. Keep your shoulders and the rest of your body relaxed.
- When you have filled and emptied your lungs 8-10 times. It is time to add another step into your breathing. Inhale first into your lower lungs as before, and then continue inhaling into your upper chest. As you do so, your right hand will rise and your left hand will fall a little as your stomach falls.
- As you exhale slowly through your mouth, make a quiet, whooshing sound as first your left hand and then your right hand falls. You don’t have to make the whooshing sound if it makes you feel uncomfortable or if you are in a public place. But some people find that it makes it easier to breathe out. As you exhale, feel the tension leaving your body as you become more and more relaxed.
- Practice breathing in and out like this for 3 to 5 minutes. Try to repeat this every day and you should find that it gets easier with practice.
For more information on anxiety please read our articles on anxiety and tips on tackling anxiety here.