Breathing exercises to combat anxiety
During this difficult time, many of us will be feeling anxious or uncertain about the future. Stress can cause all sorts of nasty physical reactions, some of which we won't have experienced before. When we’re anxious, our breathing tends to be shallow and rapid, which can be scary and leaves us feeling exhausted. By slowing down our breathing rate and pattern we can help our bodies to relax, and our blood pressure, heart rate, digestive system, and hormonal levels return to normal. Even if you're not having panic attacks, introducing some breathing techniques into your daily routine can help you to keep any feelings of stress and anxiety at bay.
Feel it in your belly
One way to manage our reaction to stress is to learn how to belly breathe instead of chest breathe.
Firstly sit or lie down comfortably.
Then place one hand on your chest and one hand on your stomach somewhere above your belly button.
Breathe in through your nose, noticing your stomach rise. Remember your chest should remain relatively still and relaxed.
Purse your lips and exhale through your mouth. Try engaging your stomach muscles to push air out at the end of the breath.
Take it slow and repeat.
Pranayama breathing is something that is often performed in yoga and meditation. It means the practice of voluntary breath control and refers to breathing in, holding that breath and then breathing out again in a slow and controlled way.
Find a quiet spot where you feel most at peace.
Lie comfortably on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor hip-distance apart.
Place your palm on your abdomen and breathe comfortably, focusing on the quality of your breath. Listen to your breath.
Does the breath feel tense? Strained? Uneven? Shallow? Simply observe the breath without any judgment.
Then gradually begin to make your breathing as relaxed and smooth as possible, introducing a slight pause after each breath.
Take it slow and focus on your breath only.
It's recommended that you take a few minutes out of your day each morning or evening to practice. Whether it's before breakfast or right before bed, carving out time to make this a habit is a tiny step that can really help you to manage some of those smaller anxieties. As you practice, you'll be able to automatically engage breathing exercises whenever you face a stressful event. You can also try checking out some local yoga and meditation options. Many businesses are offering free or discounted sessions during the pandemic.
If you're ever experiencing more serious anxiety or finding it hard to cope, make an appointment with your doctor. You can also find a list of therapists for private support on our website. For those without financial means, The Barons Court Project offers support for people living locally with severe mental health conditions.