This article provides a step-by-step guideline for how to practice slow breathing in order to reduce long-term anxiety and increase relaxation.
According to research, 1 in every 5 adults has an anxiety disorder that affects their ability to function effectively throughout their everyday life.
Many of these individuals never seek treatment for their condition – not through a counselor or therapist, nor through self-help techniques that can be learned online or in books.
But while anxiety may be an inherit part of being human, it’s important to know that there are many available solutions out there to help us manage our anxiety better.
One of the most common forms of anxiety relief are breathing exercises, specifically diaphragmatic breathing (also know as “deep breathing”).
How you breathe when you’re anxious
Before we get into how to breathe differently to increase relaxation and reduce anxiety, let’s first think about how we breath when we are anxious.
Often times when we feel anxious our breathing becomes faster and shallower. We breathe at a rapid pace into the upper part of our chest. This can then lead to other physiological symptoms like muscle tension, faster heart rate, cold hands, stuttering, and other physical signs of anxiety.
However, by reversing this process (and instead breathing slower and deeper), we can often reduce these feelings of anxiety and become more calm and relaxed.
Slow breathing exercise for reducing anxiety
The way it works is surprisingly simple, but effective:
1. Lay down in a comfortable position, preferably with loose clothing.
2. Put one hand on your chest and one hand on your stomach.
3. Slowly inhale through your nose.
4. As you inhale, push your belly/stomach out and feel your stomach expand with your hand.
5. Once you have fully inhaled, take a short 1 second pause while holding your breath.
6. Now – slowly exhale through pursed lips to regulate the release of air while squeezing your belly/tummy (Note: Try to exhale twice as slowly as you inhale).
7. Rest and repeat.
This is a basic outline I use for the slow breathing exercise, but you can adjust some things to fit your tastes.
For example, it’s not necessary to have your hands positioned over your chest and stomach, although I do find this easier for guiding my breathe “deep enough” into my lungs. If you do this exercise properly, your stomach should rise after a deep inhalation and fall after a deep exhalation.
You can also technically do this exercise while sitting down or standing up, but to maximize your relaxation you should really do it while laying down comfortably.
Conditioning yourself to be less anxious
By making it a routine to practice these anxiety reducing techniques, we can begin to slowly condition ourselves to be less anxious of a person. Even just taking 15 minutes every day (or every other day) can have long-term effects on our anxiety and stress levels throughout our everyday life.
In addition to this slow breathing exercise, The Shyness and Social Anxiety System also covers 2 other relaxation techniques that can help you combat your anxiety: progressive muscle relaxation and mindfulness meditation.