Breathing Techniques for Anxiety / Panic Attacks

Remembering to breathe when we are in a state of anxiety is one of the quickest ways to calm yourself. When we get anxious or panicky our breathing becomes shallow as the danger that we see/perceive to be happening to us or around us alerts us to trigger our flight (run away), fight (stand and attack) or freeze (shut down unable to move and play dead).

The first thing to ask yourself when you begin to feel panicky or anxious is – Is the threat or danger real or in my thoughts/mind?

If it is the former then you must do what ever you need to do to get yourself out of the dangerous situation.

If it is the latter then it is likely that your body has triggered your alert system – a bit like setting off a fire alarm when there is no fire – and then it’s a case of stepping down and returning to a place of calm. Identifying whether the danger is real or perceived is the first step.

When we are anxious our body is preparation mode, our breathing becomes shallow, you may feel sick, light headed, clammy, cold, shivery, hot, breathless and shaky. These are normal body reactions to the situation you think is life threatening.

Slowing your breathing – taking deep breathes in from your stomach area (holding for 3-4 seconds) and slowly breathing out and releasing your breathe for 3-4 seconds them sends a message to our brains that the threat has passed or is passing. Repeating to yourself that you are ok, this is a normal reaction and that there is no real threat our ways to self soothe and bring the body back in line with a calmer position. Breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth as many times as you need to until you get to a place where you can breathe in and out through your nose. Concentrate on the breathes coming from further down your body rather than chest  – placing your hand on the top part of your stomach can also focus your mind on breathing allowing your mind to focus on how your body is feeling rather than the unhelpful thoughts in your mind.

The article below provides some breathing techniques which can help you to achieve this – practising breathing in this way when you are not anxious is also a brilliant way to equip yourself for the eventually of a panic or anxiety attack as through repetition your body learns to naturally adopt this for you when the situation really does present itself and the severity of the attacks can be radically reduced in length and distress.

Please feel able to contact me if this is an aspect of your life that is causing you distress – counselling can help you with techniques to tackle the immediate distress and then softly help you to explore and understand what may be causing you to adopt this reaction in the first place and address the underlying anxieties.


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