Breathing exercises - anxiety and panic attacks

Breathing rate can vary with age, weight, tolerance to exercise, and general health. For the average adult, a normal breathing rate consists of 12 to 18 breaths per minute. However, several factors can impair respiratory function, creating a pattern of quick, shallow breathing.


Chronic stress and strong emotions such as rage or fear intensify your fight-or-flight response, which can impair your breathing rate.


Poor posture also contributes to breathing pattern dysfunction. This is commonly seen in people who spend long hours sitting each day. Rounded shoulders and a forward head posture cause the muscles around the chest to tighten. That tightening limits the ability of the rib cage to expand and causes people to take more rapid, shallow breaths.


Anxiety - Counselling - Milton Keynes

Reinforcing proper breathing patterns


There are many benefits to deep breathing. It helps to foster a sense of calm, reduce stress and anxiety levels, and lower blood pressure. In fact, deep breathing is the basis for all meditative and mindfulness practices.

A good way to practice balanced breathing is to take a deep inhale, count to four, and then release a deep exhale to the same count.

If you’re unsure of whether you’re a shallow breather, place your palm against your abdomen beneath your rib cage and exhale. Take a deep breath and follow the movement of your hand. If your hand moves as your abdomen expands, you’re breathing correctly.

If your hand only moves slightly but your shoulders elevate, you may want to consider practising breathing exercises to strengthen your muscles and reinforce proper breathing patterns.


Breathing exercises


Deep breathing can be done pretty much anywhere and anytime you feel anxious, without any special tools or time frame. Sometimes just taking a few deep breaths before entering a stressful situation or when you find yourself in the middle of one, can lower stress and anxiety levels. However, if you want to have a more structured time of relaxation and anxiety relief, here are a few exercises you can try.


Relaxing deep breathing


  • Sit comfortably.

  • Breathe in through your nose for 6 seconds (try to fill your abdomen first, then up through your upper chest).

  • Hold your breath for 2-3 seconds.

  • Release your breath slowly through pursed lips.

  • Repeat 10 times.

  • Sit comfortably.

  • Close your eyes.

  • Take one deep breath and release it while saying the word “relax” either silently or aloud.

  • Breathe naturally 10 times while counting each breath (try to relax your face muscles as well as shoulders and other areas).

  • After counting down from 10 to 1, open your eyes.


Counting breaths


  • Sit comfortably.

  • Close your eyes.

  • Take one deep breath and release it while saying the word “relax” either silently or aloud.

  • Breathe naturally 10 times while counting each breath (try to relax your face muscles as well as shoulders and other areas).

  • After counting down from 10 to 1, open your eyes.


Meditation breathing


This is the simplest of the breathing exercises and can be done in just about any stressful or anxiety-producing situation:


  • Breathe out slowly.

  • Ignore when you breathe in.

  • Concentrate only on breathing out.

  • Breathe out as much air as possible before breathing in again.

  • Focus on relaxing the muscles in your face, shoulders, and anywhere else you feel tense while you breathe.


These are just a few examples of breathing exercises that can be done most anywhere you find yourself feeling anxious.


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