Best Breathing Techniques for Anxiety (15+ Useful Tips)
In this blog, we’re going to look at over fifteen of the best breathing techniques for anxiety. Readers will first understand how breathing can help you control your anxiety. Then, we will take a closer look at these breathing techniques.
What are the Best Breathing Techniques for Anxiety?
There are several breathing techniques you can utilise to keep your anxiety under control. Some of these include:
- Box Breathing
- 6-Second Breathing
- Nadi Shodhana
- Belly Breathing
- Foghorn Breathing
- Lion’s Breath
- Pursed-Lip Breathing
- Mindful Breathing
- 4-7-8 Breathing
- Resonance Breathing
- Sitali Pranayam
- Morning Breathing
- Slow Deep Breathing
- Breath Focus
- Ujjayi Breath
- Birthday Candle Breathing
How can Breathing Help Anxiety?
There is plenty of scientific evidence that points to the anxiety-reducing effect of conscious breathing. Breathing techniques are patterns of deliberate breathing that help us communicate with our bodies. Using these techniques are an effective way to cope with and treat anxiety disorders.
Breathing a certain way allows us to activate or deactivate the two wings of the autonomic nervous system. One of these wings is the sympathetic nervous system, which controls our bodily functions in times of stress. The other is the parasympathetic nervous system, which controls the same functions in times of rest.
Both these systems need to be working optimally for one to reduce symptoms of anxiety. Moreover, when this is achieved, we’re able to maintain wellbeing.
16 Best Breathing Techniques for Anxiety
Now that we’ve understood how breathing can quell your anxiety, let’s explore some of the best breathing techniques for this purpose.
The process of box breathing is pretty simple. It requires you to spread your breathing evenly over four intervals of four seconds. Imagine each interval to be one side of a square box.
As you inhale, count to four seconds and visualise the first side of the square. Then, pause and hold your breath for another four seconds. This completes the second side of the box you are visualising.
Next, take four seconds again to exhale and complete the third side. Finally, hold your breath one more time for four seconds to complete the box. Continue breathing this way till you feel a significant change in your level of anxiety.
This technique is meant to improve your heart rate variability (HRV), which is a measure of the variation of time difference between your heartbeats. A healthy HRV indicates that both systems in the autonomic nervous system are functioning optimally.
Since inhaling activates the sympathetic nervous system and exhaling activates the parasympathetic nervous system, our breaths can be used to achieve the right balance.
Taking 6 seconds for each inhale and exhale is found to be effective to maintain an ideal HRV. If 6 seconds doesn’t feel right to you, variate between 5-7 seconds.
Nadi shodhana is a breathing technique originating from the ancient Indian practice of yoga. It is also called alternate nostril breathing. Nadi is the Sanskrit word for flow and Shodhana means purification.
Using this breathing technique is believed to purify the flow of air and energy within you in order to stay calm and centred. To do this, you need to press your thumb against the right nostril.
Do it in such a way that only your left nostril inhales air. Inhale for four seconds and then, take your ring finger and close your left nostril too for a moment. Next, release your thumb and exhale from the right nostril for six seconds.
Breathe in through the right nostril this time for four seconds as you press your ring finger on the left one. Close both nostrils briefly and then, exhale from the left nostril for six seconds.
Belly breathing is so simple yet effective that even children can learn how to do it. It can be of great use, especially when your anxiety is making you angry or restless. This technique is also known as diaphragmatic breathing or abdominal breathing.
The idea is to take deep breaths all the way down to your belly. Therefore, you nee dto be standing or seated comfortably so that your stomach is loose. Fully engage your stomach, abdominal muscles, and diaphragm as you breathe slowly.
Foghorn breathing is a technique that uses vocalisation to activate the vagus nerve, a cranial nerve that plays an important role in the onset and regulation of anxiety. To practise this technique, you need to mimic the sound of a foghorn from ships and lighthouses.
Take a deep breath in and as you exhale, make a deep, love “voo” sound to recreate the same noise as the foghorn. You can also try saying “om” as in Yogic breathing exercises. Taking 5-6 such breaths can significantly lower your anxiety.
This is another type of pranayam, or breathing exercises from yoga, that alleviates stress, eliminates toxins, and stimulates your throat and upper chest. Sit comfortably for this technique and take a deep inhale.
Then, as you exhale, open your mouth wide and stick out your tongue. Exhaling this way will make a loud hissing type noise. If you’re making it, then you’re doing it right. Take 3-4 deep breaths in this way the next time your anxiety makes you uncomfortable.
Sitali pranayam is meant to cool your body down, which can be necessary sometimes when anxiety gets you all sweaty. Perfect for hot summers, or to cool down after a work out, this breathing technique helps your body relax and self-soothe.
Roll your tongue like a little taco and inhale for as long as you can. Your tongue, mouth and throat should feel cool immediately. Then, close your mouth and exhale through your nose. Do this a couple of times till your body feels relatively calm and collected.
Here is a very basic but extremely powerful meditative practice that can ease your anxiety. It works best when practised regularly. To do this, simply focus all your attention to your breathing.
Notice the natural rhythm and flow of your breath and the way it feels on each inhale and exhale. Pay attention to the body parts involved in breathing and let it take up all your concentration. Soon enough, you’ll forget about what was stressing you out so much.
The 4-7-8 breathing technique is another way to stimulate your autonomic nervous system in a manner that benefits you. The idea is to keep your parasympathetic nervous system active for longer than the sympathetic one and to create an ideal HRV.
To do this, you need to mentally count to four as you inhale and then hold your breath for seven seconds. Then, count to eight slowly as you exhale. This breathing technique is most effective when facing a sudden anxiety attack.
Also known as resonance frequency breathing, this technique has a regulating effect on the autonomic nervous system and other key body systems such as the circulatory system. It requires you to take slow, relaxed diaphragmatic breaths at a rate of 3-7 breaths per minute.
First, you need to inhale for four seconds and exhale for six. Then, inhale and exhale both for five seconds. The next step is true resonance breathing, when you inhale and exhale for six seconds. Finally, you inhale for five seconds and exhale for seven seconds.
Pursed-lip breathing keeps airways open longer so that you can remove the air that is trapped in your lungs. This technique flows oxygen into your lungs and carbon dioxide out of your lungs. It helps you slow down your breathing rate and relieving shortness of breath.
To practise this technique, breathe in slowly through your nose for two counts, keeping your mouth closed. Then, take a normal inhale and purse your lips for the exhale. This technique is very useful when experiencing difficulty breathing, as often experienced with anxiety.
This breathing technique is meant for daily use, first thing in the morning. Relax your abdominal muscles and place on hand on your belly. Take a long inhale and feel your abdomen rise as you breathe in.
Feel your chest expand on the same inhale and let the breath continue till your collar bone rises. Then, pause for a moment and exhale out of the mouth gently. Continue the exhale and feel your belly go down. Push your belly towards your spine to push out any residual air at the bottom on your lungs.
Slow Deep Breathing
Slow deep breathing is a lot like morning breathing, except it can be done at any time. Another difference is that morning breathing is done while sitting erect but this technique can be done while lying down.
The process is the same but you may exhale through your mouth or your nose as per your preference. Keep the breaths as long and deep as you can.
For breath focus, you need to pay attention to your breathing just like mindful breathing. At first, take a few normal breaths and bring an awareness to your body. Notice what you feel without trying to change anything.
Then, slowly alternate between normal and deep breathing for a while and observe how the shallow breaths feel compared to the deeper ones. Finally, practice deep breathing for a while and visualise something calming.
Here is another pranayam breathing technique from the practice of yoga. The Ujjayi breath is all about the sound it creates. You need to take a deep inhale through your nose and as you exhale, use the back of your throat.
This should create a snorous and sibilant sound that resembles an S. Since this sounds like the ocean, ujjayi breath is also called the ocean breath. You’ll be able to hear and feel each exhale at the back of your throat.
Birthday Candle Breathing
The last item on our list is a breathing technique familiar to everyone. It’s the kind of breath we take when we’re blowing out candles on a birthday cake. Take a long inhale from your nose and exhale from the mouth as if you’re going to whistle.
This is a powerful relaxation technique that can get you back to normal when anxiety has you feeling like you’re going to pass out.
In this blog, we looked at over fifteen of the best breathing techniques for anxiety. Readers first understood how breathing can help you control your anxiety. Then, we took a closer look at these breathing techniques.
The breathing techniques for anxiety mentioned here were Box Breathing, 6-Second Breathing, Nadi Shodhana, Belly Breathing, Foghorn Breathing, Lion’s Breath, Pursed-Lip Breathing, Mindful Breathing, 4-7-8 Breathing, Resonance Breathing, Sitali Pranayam, Morning Breathing, Slow Deep Breathing, Breath Focus, Ujjayi Breath, and Birthday Candle Breathing.
FAQs (Best Breathing Techniques for Anxiety)
How can I reduce anxiety immediately?
There are many coping skills that work effectively in fighting anxiety. Some of them are as follows:
- Grounding Techniques
- Engaging the Pre-Frontal Cortex
- CBT Practices
How can I retrain my brain anxiety?
Taking a few deep breaths is a powerful way to retrain your brain anxiety. It gets more oxygen in your body, and to your brain, and is a great way to help regulate the sympathetic nervous system.
How do I get rid of anxiety forever?
You can’t get rid of anxiety forever as it is an important and healthy bodily reaction to threats in our environment. However, you can strengthen your coping skills so much so that it stops interfering with your functionality.
Besides taking therapy, you can also work on relaxation techniques, breathing techniques, CBT, and meditation. Additionally, understanding how anxiety works can also go a long way in helping you deal with it better.