Breathing exercises and breath management can help relieve anxiety.
Many patients with frequent anxiety attacks often suffer from poor breathing habits that are due to increased sympathetic influences. Sometimes, anxiety can be initiated by poor breathing habits as well.
During anxiety you may suffer from any or all of the following
1 :: Shallow Breathing. Mainly from upper chest.
2 :: Monitored Breathing. Too much thinking about your breathing, which may cause you to take in more air than required.
3 :: Over-breathing. Breathing in more air because you feel you are not getting enough air.
4 :: Shortness of breath.
About 60% of anxiety attacks are accompanied by hyperventilation and many people suffering from it over-breathe even when they think they are not anxious.
While hyperventilating, the body does not retain much carbon dioxide and thus the body cannot use the available oxygen. This leads to a cycle of chemical imbalance that can cause innumerable problems like weakness, fainting, dizziness, confusion, agitation, a feeling of being outside yourself, seeing images that aren’t there, feeling as if you can’t breathe, chest constriction etc.
Why breathing in a right way is so crucial?
90% of us do not breathe in a right way and unfortunately most of us are not aware of this. Over breathing for a short period of time is not a problem. But if you constantly breathe rapidly over a considerable amount of time you will eventually become sensitized to a situation, place or thing.
For example, say you become anxious while coming on stage. Every time you see a stage in real life or even on TV, it brings a physical or psychological reaction and your breathing will speed up amongst other things.
Regular practice of correct breathing exercises patterns actually inhibits production of stress hormones and can help in desensitization (returning the situation or memory into non-emotional state)
Anxiety attack trigger emotional hijacking. During an anxiety attack the emotional response thus produced bypasses our thinking brain (Neocortex). That is the reason we have difficulty in thinking clearly during an anxiety attack. This state is called emotional hijacking.
Conscious Breathing activates Neocortex (the thinking brain). While performing Conscious relaxed breathing you use the thinking part of the brain. It then allows less impulse to pass through the emotional circuits and thus produces less emotional response to unwanted stimuli i.e. less anxiety.
According to the National Panic and Anxiety Disorder, one of the most disturbing symptoms of an anxiety attack is the feeling that you are not getting enough air into your lungs.
Diaphragmatic breathing can alleviate this feeling of breathlessness. Diaphragmatic breathing can be practiced anywhere, in any position and at any time you feel short of breath.
Breathing exercises decrease the effort required for breathing and provides relaxation by vagus nerve stimulation, which may result in an improved breathing pattern through decreased respiratory rate and reduced breathlessness.