Back to Blog

Stop Anxiety With These Simple Breathing Exercises for Panic Attacks

holistic health May 19, 2021

Anxiety and panic attacks are often debilitating. They may cause you to feel lightheaded, nauseous, slowed down, or even paralyzed with fear.

The first step in reducing the frequency of anxiety and panic attacks is to learn how to control your breathing. Breathing techniques are a tried and true way of preventing these feelings from taking over your day-to-day life.

Learning how to practice proper breathing can help you reduce the number of anxiety attacks you experience throughout the year. It also helps with insomnia (bonus tip!) since it teaches you how to relax when lying down for bed at night.

In addition, by practicing deep breathing exercises daily, many people have lived their lives without any symptoms related to anxiety or panic disorders!

What is a panic (anxiety) attack?

A panic attack is a sudden period of intense fear that is out of proportion to the situation. These attacks can cause a person significant discomfort and leave them feeling vulnerable for hours after.

People with panic disorder experience recurrent, unexpected panic attacks which are not linked to any particular object or event in their environment. A diagnosis will be made on the number and severity of symptoms present.

The main symptom of a panic attack is an overwhelming sensation that something terrible or life-threatening is happening. The person may be having a heart attack, suffocating, or even losing their mind.

These anxiety attacks can cause chest pain, difficulty breathing (hyperventilating), feeling lightheaded, and tingling sensations (paresthesia) to name a few.

Eventually, this can lead to someone's body going into major shock by releasing large amounts of adrenaline and cortisol for hours after the event has happened.

The best way to prevent these attacks from happening again is through therapy. You learn how your thoughts cause physical reactions and work on mental exercises such as meditation and deep breathing exercises.

Breathing exercises for anxiety

Deep breathing exercises for panic attacks and anxiety are one of the most effective ways to manage these attacks.

Research has found that deep breathing exercises can reduce symptoms or even stop an attack before it happens.

It's important to learn how long and slow breaths are best for this exercise, which is typically measured as a six-count inhale with a twelve-count exhale. This type of breathing helps calm your nervous system by releasing calming hormones that counteract the effects of adrenaline in producing anxiety (like cortisol).

The simplest deep breathing exercise for your health and wellness

This is a breathing exercise for deep breaths to help with anxiety and panic attacks. It's best to practice this technique in a familiar area where you be in a comfortable position, like your bedroom or living room. You can either sit or lie down.

Close your eyes and focus on how it feels when you inhale slowly and deeply through the nose, fill each lung with air completely and hold your breath slightly before slowly exhaling through your mouth. 

This should take about five minutes so give yourself enough time if possible!

Repeat this breathing exercise for anxiety until the attack subsides and the body feels better.

Focus on slow, rhythmic breathing

Slow and rhythmic breathing is essential for when you have a panic attack.

You want to make sure that you are exhaling for around twice as long as you are inhaling.

Try to breathe from your diaphragm.

This will help decrease the rate of adrenaline and boost serotonin levels, which calms nerves and prevents anxiety attacks.

What happens when a person has short breaths?

Short breaths can increase the level of oxygen in your blood (which is what causes anxiety). This can make you hyperventilate, leading to an attack that could even be life-threatening if left untreated.

Slow breathing helps prevent this!

What about long breaths?

Longer inhalations cause air to enter our lungs more fully, so we have better oxygen intake. But remember: aim for twice as much exhalation than inhalation when breathing exercises!

Alternate nostril breathing

This breathing exercise has been used for centuries to help with anxiety attacks.

To do it, close your left nostril and inhale slowly through the right one. Then cover the right nostril with your thumb and exhale slowly from the left side.

Wait a few seconds before opening up that same side's nostrils so you can take a deep breath in again on the other side of your nose.

When we switch which nostril we're using to breathe air into our lungs, the body will start producing more nitrous oxide (NO). Nitrous oxide, which is used famously by a dentist with laughing gas, can be considered "the happy molecule."

Nitrous oxide opens up the blood vessels, decreases blood pressure, and makes the whole body calmer, which is why it's a natural remedy for anxiety.

It can also help with pain and sleeplessness because NO helps increase blood flow to all parts of the body.

Breathe from the abdomen, not the upper chest

Many people habitually take shallow breaths leading to adverse health issues, including anxiety attacks.

You may be breathing in a shallow fashion and not even aware of it. It's going to take some mindfulness and practice to train yourself to take deep breaths habitually.

Breathing from the belly (or diaphragm) is a crucial breathing exercise. When you take a deep breath, you get more oxygen into your body, which you need to manage anxiety.

Learning to breathe into your diaphragm and not your chest is a great preventative practice to curb anxiety attacks.

It may feel uncomfortable and strange when you focus your breath going deep into your belly.

Focus the breath so that your belly expands and contracts and not your chest and exhale slowly.

You should feel the air fill your lungs and move past it into your gut.

Also, seek out other holistic health methods such as tai chi and meditation. These exercises incorporate breathing exercises proven by research studies to reduce symptoms of anxiety and panic attacks.

Count each breath

When you count each breath, this helps the mind focus on something other than the anxiety and panic attack, which can help reduce the chances of an attack.

Also, when you count each breath, it brings mindfulness of what you are experiencing within your body.

Focus your breathing into areas where you might be feeling the stress and visualize yourself breaking it apart with each breath.

You can count each breath as you exhale through your mouth or nose.

Visualization

Visualization is an excellent practice for when you are doing your breathing exercises for anxiety attacks.

You can use this to make deep relaxation and breathing practice more effective. You can also use visualization when you feel an anxiety attack coming on or after the adrenaline has worn off.

Visualize your happy place for five minutes, at least three times a day (morning, midday, evening).

This is a great way to reduce your heart rate, stress levels and reduce anxiety before it gets too intense.

A sample visualization exercise:

Close your eyes and picture yourself in a favorite location that makes you feel calm and safe. This could be at a beach during sunset feeling what it would be like if all of your worries were gone.

Focus only on those details of your surrounding without worrying about anything else until you experience peace and serenity from these thoughts.

Make sure to continue to focus on slowly breathing deep into your belly and avoid shallow breaths into your chest.

Practice Meditation in Motion

It's good to schedule into your routine deep breath and meditation exercises. This will help develop the strength to better fight against anxious thoughts and attacks before they occur.

Tai Chi is a great practice to help develop a calm and relaxed mind. This martial art uses a series of slow and flowing movements that are easy to learn.

Tai Chi doesn't require any special equipment or clothing, so it's easy and convenient for anyone looking to practice this type of exercise to do at home.

The most important thing when practicing Tai Chi is concentration on the movement involved by breathing deeply, releasing tension from your muscles, creating a relaxed mind.

It may take a few weeks before you notice results but don't give up!

 

Box Breathing Method

Box breathing is a simple way to relax your body, and it also helps against anxiety.

If you are anxious, you can use the box breathing method to break and slow your thoughts.

To do it, all you need to do is:

  1. Inhale for a count of four.
  2. Hold your breath in for four seconds, which is about the time it takes you to say "one thousand one."
  3. Exhale slowly through your mouth over the next four seconds.
  4. Keep your lungs empty for another four seconds.

Repeat this box breathing cycle until you feel calm again.

You can use box breathing even when you are not anxious or stressed out. This breathing technique also works well to relax and get ready for activities that make you nervous, like public speaking or taking tests.

Conclusion

Breathing exercises for anxiety is crucial for anyone who suffers from an anxiety disorder. There are many techniques that a person can use to help themselves when they're feeling anxious, and you need to find the one that works best for you.

With practice, your body will get used to the sensation of controlled breathing and get into a relaxed and healthy state. So that when those feelings come up in real life again, they may lessen considerably or disappear altogether!

Practice one of these techniques today and see how much better your day becomes tomorrow.

 

*If you think you may have an anxiety issue or panic attack, please call your doctor immediately for medical advice.

 

Don't miss a beat!

New moves, motivation, and classes delivered to your inbox. 

We hate SPAM. We will never sell your information, for any reason.