Learning how to do diaphragmatic breathing (also called abdominal breathing or belly breathing) is a great tool to have in your anxiety tool box. You can use this breathing technique to help manage the symptoms of anxiety. With a little practice, you will be able to belly breathe not only when you’re lying down, but also when you are standing or even walking around.
People with high levels of anxiety usually breathe only using the chest muscles. Or they hold their breath without realizing it. This shallow breathing and breath-holding creates an imbalance of oxygen and carbon dioxide in the body. Chest breathing or shallow breathing can exacerbate the symptoms of anxiety. It can also make the person feel air hunger- that they are not getting enough air, which causes more anxiety. During a panic attack or times of intense anxiety, breathing is very rapid and shallow.
Diaphragmatic breathing corrects the oxygen- carbon dioxide imbalance taht occurs with anxety and can restore you to a state of calm. It is interesting to note that we were all born doing diaphragmatic breathing. If you watch a baby sleep, you will see the belly doing most of the work of breathing- and this is the harmonious and natural way we were meant to breathe. It not only helps with anxiety, it feels wonderful too.
How to Do Diaphragmatic Breathing
1. Sit or lie in a comfortable position. Place one hand on your upper chest and the other on your lower belly so you can feel what you are doing.
2. Take a slow deep breath in through your nose and concentrate on filling the belly area with air. You should feel your stomach filling up and moving outwards- like a balloon filling up. Keep your chest as still as possible. Complete the inhale.
3. Now slowly exhale, letting the air out of your belly. It should feel like the balloon is deflating. Go slow slow slow. Be sure to let all the air out of your belly. You can tighten and contract your stomach muscles to force as much air out as possible.
Repeat steps 1-3.
Note: the hand on your chest should remain as still as possible while you breathe diaphragmatically. Continue to breathe slowly and deeply for a few mintues to get the feel for it. Notice how relaxed and peaceful this feels!
When you first start to practice abdominal breathing, you may tire easily. This is because you are not used to using your diaphragm muscle so much. But the more you practice, the easier it is to do. So stick with it. Practice 3 to 5 times a day until you get the hang of it.
The purpose of learning to do diaphragmatic breathing is so that you can do it easily and anytime you wish throughout the day, and especially when you feel anxious. If you are tense, you can remember to do belly breathing and you will find that you feel more relaxed in a matter of minutes.
It feels good to set and egg timer for 5 minutes to just lie down, close your eyes do slow, deep diaphragmatic breathing. In fact this is a wonderful way to start your day!
I wish you peace,