Hopefully you know about breathing exercises as relaxation method. There are quite a few techniques – breathing meditation, diaphragmatic/deep breathing, breath counting, etc. I don’t notice much a benefit to using breathing techniques as a way of dealing with my dysthymia/depression (that’s not to say there are no benefits, only that I do not personally notice any). However, I definitely benefit from using breathing techniques as a way to combat anxiety.
I now – finally – use different breathing techniques instinctively. I don’t remember exactly when I first learnt about using breathing, but I estimate that it has taken over 5 years for me to reach the point where I use the techniques without consciously telling myself to beforehand. That seems like quite a while, doesn’t it? But it’s not easy to train your brain, I guess (or at least, it’s not easy to train my brain).
When I feel anxious, my breathing becomes shallow, my chest and muscles all tighten up, and my stomach will get a bit upset. It doesn’t feel great. However, by doing some deep breathing, those sensations go away. They don’t go away immediately (I wish!), but I do think they reduce fairly quickly. Breathing exercises also give my mind something to focus on, rather than ruminating on whatever idea is making my anxious. So, for me, using different breathing techniques is a good way to avoid panic attacks.
I do experiment with different breathing exercises, but I have three go-to ones:
diaphragmatic/deep breathing: literally just taking slow, deep breaths using your diaphragm (rather than your chest)
4-7-8 counting: breath in for a count of 4, hold your breath for a count of 7, breath out for a count of 8, then repeat (warning: this one has made me a bit light-headed before; you may wish to slightly modify the count, such as 5-6-7)
4-count breathing: breath in and then count ‘1’ as you exhale; repeat and count ‘2’; repeat again and count ‘3’; repeat again and count ‘4’; keep breathing, starting again at ‘1’ – never count past 4
As a bonus, I find breathing exercises can be a good way to get to sleep. It’s better than staring at the clock, anyhow.
So, if you don’t do breathing exercises, give it a try! If you do, be persistent, because they can be very useful!
P.S. Feel free to share your favourite breathing exercises; I’d love to give them try! 🙂