Stopping Panic and High Anxiety

Breathing techniques and deep breathing can help calm panic and anxiety very quickly for several reasons such as –

  • It activates the Para-Sympathetic System (PNS). The PNS is responsible for the body’s “rest and digest” response and counters the activation of the Sympathetic Nervous System (SNS), which triggers the body’s “fight or flight” response during times of stress. Breathing techniques activate the PNS which promotes relaxation and reduces anxiety.
  • It mindfully focuses you in the present moment. Focusing on breathing brings your attention to the here and now which diverts you from anxious thoughts and triggers.
  • It can break overthinking. Overthinking exacerbates the anxiety spiral which is where we have continual negative thoughts that make us feel worse and worse.
  • Our muscles relax, especially in the top half of our body and as our body relaxes, so does the mind.
  • It regulates carbon dioxide levels on the blood. When we’re anxious we can hyperventilate which creates decreased levels of carbon dioxide in the blood which increases anxiety.  Breathing helps re-balance this.
  • Oxygenation of the blood. Deep breathing increases the flow of oxygen to the brain and body, which can help alleviate symptoms of anxiety.  Oxygen is essential for brain functioning and poor oxygen levels can contribute to panic or anxiety.

We only need 1 breathing technique to help us and there are many out there to choose from.  It can be so helpful to pick one and practise it when you’re feeling balanced so that when you need it, you’re familiar with it which then makes it much more easy to employ.

Here are 3 examples of breathing techniques –

Mindful Breathing

  • Take a breath in and hold for the count of 3
  • Slowly breathe out
  • Repeat 5 times

When you breathe in, focus your attention on your breath and notice the change that your breathing has on your shoulders, chest and stomach.  As you breathe out, notice the air leaving your body.

3-5 Breathing

When suffering a panic attack or when feeling anxious, often our oxygen and carbon dioxide levels in our blood alters.  This technique seeks to rebalance us which alleviates the symptoms of panic.

  • Breathe in slowly to the count of 3
  • Breathe out slowly to the count of 5
  • Repeat until the anxiety or panic has stopped.

This technique is about breathing out more than you’re breathing in.  When a panic attack begins, our breath rate increases which means we breathe in too much oxygen which fuels the panic attack.

Deep Breathing technique

This is one of the easiest breathing techniques and can play a crucial part in lowering your stress levels as it not only lowers your heart rate, but it brings endorphins into your system.

  • Ensure you breathe in from your stomach not your chest
  • Take deep breaths in with your hand on your stomach.
  • Try to make your hand rise as far as possible and concentrate on that.
  • Breathe in through your nose and hold it for 5 seconds.
  • Let it through your mouth slowly by puckering your lips and letting the air out like a balloon.

I hope this helps and I’d invite you to practise at least one of the breathing techniques and notice how it alters how you feel.

Best wishes, Duncan

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