If you suffer from anxiety on a regular basis, chances are you fully understand how miserable it can be. If you’ve seen your doctor about it, they may have prescribed one (or more) medications to treat it. Fortunately, there are breathing techniques for anxiety that you can try which may reduce or even eliminate your need for medication. *Note: We do not advise suddenly stopping any doctor prescribed medicine without consulting your physician first.
Reduce Stress with Breathing Exercises
Breathing exercises reduce anxiety and have been proven to calm people down when they are anxious. These techniques can reduce stress, which is usually the source of anxiety. The act of focusing on your breath takes your mind off of whatever is stressing you out. It also increases blood flow and oxygen to your brain. When we are stressed, our brains trigger the adrenal gland to produce cortisol, which is a hormone that is supposed to calm us so that we can focus on the stressful task at hand. Too much stress means too much cortisol, which can lead to weight gain. In extreme cases, the adrenal gland stops functioning altogether, which creates a condition called adrenal fatigue. This causes the patient to feel constantly tired, depressed, and unable to cope with any sort of stress. This is why we strongly recommend incorporating breathing and relaxation techniques into your treatment plan if you suffer from chronic anxiety. People with occasional anxiety can benefit from these techniques as well.
Exercise is the Best Medicine
It’s true. When you exercise, your brain produces endorphins (the “feel good” chemical) as well as adrenaline, a natural pain killer. Exercise also redirects focus to physical exertion rather than anxious thoughts. Dr. Uros Zrnic, MD is a practicing psychiatrist who is also a medical doctor. He sees many patients who have been diagnosed with Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD), chronic anxiety disorder and Social Anxiety Disorder (SAD). Dr. Zrnic prescribes anti-anxiety medications to treat these patients, but in addition to the medicine, he insists that they engage in some kind of daily exercise routine. More than 90% of his patients report that with exercise such as yoga, jogging, running and even walking daily, they have been able to reduce or even discontinue the use of anti-anxiety medications. All of his patients that add daily exercise also report significant weight loss, which eases depression among other things. One thing all these exercises have in common is the need to focus on breathing while performing the movements, which is an excellent way to cope with anxiety.
Cope with Anxiety Through Meditation
The purpose of meditation is to still the mind, which in turn makes it stronger. A highly anxious person is the perfect candidate for meditation, as the only thing you focus on is your breathing. You let go of all other thoughts and just breathe. Meditation also teaches us to be in the present moment only. Being in the present means not regretting anything from the past and not worrying about anything in the future. In meditation, you can ask yourself, “What bad things are happening right this moment?” Likely, the answer is “nothing.” You breathe in the good and breathe out the negative. Meditation is quite possibly the most effective relaxation technique there is today. Simply sit in a comfortable space with minimal distractions and focus on nothing but your breath.
Calm Down Common Stressors
Various stressors trigger anxiety differently depending on the individual. For some, it is getting on a crowded elevator, having to attend an important meeting at work, or flying in an airplane. These are all perfect times to practice deep breathing. While you’re breathing, think positive thoughts. The elevator ride is only for a minute or two – breathe. If you were asked to join an important meeting, it’s because your presence there is highly valued – breathe. Statistically, there is a higher chance of you being in a traffic jam than there is of something going wrong with the plane – breathe.
Since there isn’t a way to completely avoid anxiety, the best you can do is learn how to cope with it. Anti-anxiety medicines are only a temporary fix, at best. Keeping stress levels to a minimum, practicing these breathing exercises, and incorporating relaxation techniques throughout your day will help to reduce anxiety. Eating healthy foods, limiting caffeine, and getting daily exercise will also help tremendously. If you suffer from anxiety, just breathe and remember: You are not alone!