Of course you are going to breathe but the key is in the focus of how you breath to reduce anxiety. Anxiety comes with real physical symptoms including shortness of breath, which is part of your body’s natural fight or flight response to perceived danger. To reduce anxiety the key is not necessarily deep breathing but controlled regulated breathing and by doing this you naturally slow your heart rate and engage your bodies relaxation response – try this now….
- Breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth and make your out breath longer than your in breath.
- As you breathe in through your nose count to say 4 and as you breathe out through your mouth count to say 6. There is no set number pattern, you may count to 5 and 7 for example – the aim is normal, regular size breaths.
- Time yourself and keep this going for a minimum of 1 minute.
Practice, practice, practice. In the heat of the moment it can be really difficult to focus on your breathing (or anything else for that matter). The more you practice this technique the more it will be easier to do in times of anxiety as your body will know what to do and how to do it. Practice at least 3 times a day, starting with a minute each time and building up to longer.
2) Fear of Anxiety
Do not be afraid of your anxiety, the more you are afraid of it the more power you give it. Remind yourself that these are your thoughts and not necessarily fact. Start to question the thoughts and challenge them on a regular basis. Ask yourself where is the evidence that this is likely to happen – bear in mind that your evidence would need to stand up in a court of law for it to be considered! Are you making assumptions or perhaps fortune telling the future? These are unhelpful but habitual thought patterns, think about how you can break them and write a list of challenging questions which you can reach for in the moment.
3) Accept your anxiety
Accept your anxiety as the way you feel in this moment. The more you try to fight it or ‘get rid of it’ the more you view it as intolerable. The truth is, it is not how you would like to feel but sitting with it and accepting it is less likely to perpetuate a downward spiral. Mindfulness teaches the art of accepting our feelings and adopting a kindly attitude to them. See here for an app for your phone, alternatively consider joining a group, reading up on it or getting CDs to help you.
4) Engage in the moment
Focus on what is happening right here right now and engage in a meaningful task. It can be useful to talk yourself through what you are doing right now, almost like a running commentary. Describe what you see and what you are doing – out loud if you can! Tell yourself that you are safe right now and that this is a temporary feeling that will pass. Do not sit around focussing on the anxiety as that is just adding fuel to the fire so to speak.
5) Positive self-talk
Positive self-talk is important. Practice telling yourself how well you have coped before and how you have managed to get through every day so far to get you where you are today. Remind yourself that this is your anxiety and you can manage it. Have a list of other positive statements written down that you can reach for when you need to. These are things that you want to hear when you are distressed, think about the kind of things you would say to a friend who was anxious and apply them to your list and to you.
There is no quick fix for anxiety but with work and perseverance you can learn to manage it and reduce it greatly. www.AnxietyUK.org.uk has a helpline and more information that you might find useful. Follow these links for more about Anxiety Counselling or CBT with me.