Interventions to Manage Anxiety, Part 4: Calming Through Breath
Breath is the center of physical calm.
Physically, our routine breathing patterns include the intake of oxygen and the release of carbon dioxide. When we become anxious, our rapid, shallow breathing becomes out of balance with our body’s energy level.
We end up with more oxygen and less carbon dioxide. This drop in carbon dioxide leads to physical symptoms such as light-headedness, tingly feeling in our fingers and toes, feeling clammy and sweaty.*
Utilizing deep breathing exercises allows our body to recalibrate the oxygen-carbon dioxide ratio as well as stimulates the Vagus Nerve. The Vagus Nerve is the longest nerve running through our parasympathetic nervous system (the system the body activates to initiate calm.) Deep diaphragmatic breathing kicks this nerve into command mode, signaling for the many body parts to respond by releasing tension and relaxation.
Breathing exercises are simple and vast. There are numerous apps and videos that showcase a variety of exercises. One of my favorite apps is Headspace. While Headspace has lots of meditation and relaxation tools, they also have great breathing videos.
I also like to couple breathing exercises with Progressive Muscle Relaxation or PMR. These are exercises that systematically tense and release different muscle groups from head to toe. Insight Timer is another favorite app of mine that focuses on meditation and relaxation. You'll want to pick the PMR that works for you. There are different narrators, background music, and lengths of time, but here is a video to get you started!
Breathe. Tense and Release a muscle group. Breathe. Smile. Repeat.
Stay Tuned for Interventions to Manage Anxiety Part 5: Meditation