Breathing exercises can help you when you are feeling panicky. My therapist suggests them to help untangle my anxiety when it’s getting the better of me. Whether you’ve taken a yoga class or sat for a meditation, you know how breathing exercises can help calm you down when the world both inside and around you seems out of control. These are some of my favorite breathing exercises to keep in mind when you feel panicky.
1. 20 Breaths
Did you know that 20 breaths takes on average 2 minutes? Well, now you do. A simple breathing exercise you can do is to take 20 normal breaths. Bring your awareness to the inhale and exhale action of each one. Count up to 10 and then down to 0 as you work your way through this exercise. You won’t be killing a lot of time so this one is perfect for those last minutes before you face something stressful such as waiting for the doctor to tell you the results of your mammogram, stand up to give a speech or face your boss about getting a raise.
2. Left Nostril Breathing
The trick to this breathing exercise is to seal the right nostril in order to breathe only through the left one. I use my right ring finger to gently press my nostril closed. Left nostril breathing is connected with the moon cycle and is great when you’re on your monthly cycle. It also cools the body down so I use it when I feel hot such as after a workout or at a standing-room only concert. It’s great to pull out when you are feeling panicky because the cooling effect helps keep you calm when your heart begins to race and your palms sweat.
3. Square Breathing
Square breathing consists of four equal parts of the breathing cycle. Inhale for 4 seconds. Hold the inhalation for 4 more seconds. Exhale for 4 seconds. Then, hold the exhalation for 4 more seconds. This exercise focuses your awareness onto the seconds that pass as you breath. It’s great for moments when your mind is racing with thoughts.
4. Long, Deep Breaths
Take slow, deep breaths. If you are having a panic attack, you might start to hyperventilate. By taking long, solid breaths you help to oxygenate the body when it needs it. You may have to work at this one if you are hyperventilating but it gives you something to focus on as the anxiety passes. You can also use this breathing exercise to meditate.
5. Closed Nose
You need your right hand for this breathing exercise. Bend the index and middle fingers in to your palm as you gently press your thumb against your right nostril and your ring finger and pinky against your left nostril. Open up your right nostril and inhale for 2 breaths. Seal both nostrils and hold for 2 breaths. Then open up your left nostril and exhale for 2 breaths. Inhale 2 breaths on the left and then seal both nostrils as you hold for 2 more breaths. Exhale out your right nostril. Repeat.
Place your right hand on your heart and your left hand on your navel. As you breath at a normal pace, feel the rise and fall of your chest. If you are feeling panicky, this breathing exercise is great because it connects you to your body when you’re feeling disconnected. I know for me, I start to get pulled into my mind when I’m anxious so placing my hands on my body and paying attention to the rise and fall of my chest helps remind me that I am more than my mind.
If your breathing starts to get faster when you're feeling panicky, try to slow it down. Slowing down your breath helps prevent hyperventilation and oxygenates your body. It’s important to make sure you have enough oxygen in your blood, so try to slow down your breathing if you can. You can always come back if your breathing starts to quicken again.
Breathing exercises are great ways to cope with feelings of panic and anxiety because they go with you wherever you are. You don’t need anything special so you can use them wherever. What are some other breathing exercises?