Since the pandemic began keeping us from seeing each other a couple of years ago, many people have struggled with anxiety. An article in the National Library of Medicine states, “COVID-19 has been closely associated with a decline in mental health since its declaration as a pandemic by the World Health Organization (WHO) on March 11, 2020.” In other words, many have found it difficult to control anxiety right now.
Today we’ll discuss what I feel is the easiest method to learn, which is deep breathing.
How Anxiety Affects the Body
The stress generated by a real or imagined threat can cause your sympathetic nervous system to activate your body’s acute stress response. This is better known as the fight-or-flight response. When the fight-or-flight response is activated, your airways widen, your heart rate increases, and your digestion slows.
These physiological processes give your body more energy to get you ready to either fight or flee from the threat you are facing.
Your body has another response to calm the body down. This is called the rest and digest response. This response is controlled by the parasympathetic nervous system.
A simple way to activate the rest and digest response is by using deep breathing. When you breathe deeply and fully, you begin to calm your body. This can help to control your anxiety.
Let’s take a look at how you can use deep breathing to calm yourself down.
How to Use Deep Breathing
Breathing fully into your abdomen helps release your anxiety. By concentrating on filling your lungs completely and pulling the air down to the bottom of your lungs, you are activating your rest and digest response.
If, instead, you breathe shallowly into your chest, so it is rising with each breath, you’ll activate your fight-or-flight response. This will continue to make you feel anxious.
Also, since your lungs aren’t full, your body won’t have enough oxygen to respond to the stresses you experience daily.
This is why learning deep breathing is so important. So you can control your anxiety and live a calmer, more productive life.
Let’s look at how to breathe deeply.
Deep Breathing Steps
1. Place a hand on your stomach just above your belly button and breathe.
If you’re breathing deeply, your hand will rise and fall with each of your breaths.
2. Take slow, full, deep breaths.
At first, this may feel a bit strange because you may not be accustomed to breathing deep into your diaphragm. It may also make you feel a little lightheaded because you’re not used to getting so much oxygen.
This is normal and will pass shortly with more practice.
3. You’re getting plenty of air, even though your chest isn’t rising.
Your lungs can expand completely even without your upper chest moving. The only thing that needs to rise and fall is your abdomen.
When you begin, you’ll probably have to think about how to breathe deeply. To get better, just practice as often as possible and soon you won’t even have to think about it.
Deep Breathing and Anxiety
No matter whether your anxiety is being caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain or the product of over-active nerves reacting too strongly to stimuli, or in the case of the pandemic, a lack of stimuli, the most important thing is to reduce how it affects affects your life.
You don’t have to let anxiety stop you from living the life you deserve.
In addition to simply helping you to feel better, lowering your anxiety may lead to:
- Starting a new relationship or business venture
- Changing careers or getting promoted
- Speaking calmly in front of groups
- Traveling to places you’ve always wanted to see but made you feel anxious to visit
- Reducing your dependency on medication or therapy
Make Deep Breathing A Regular Practice
If you’re thinking about reducing any of your medications or stopping therapy, consult your physician before making any changes. But no matter what you plan to do, you can still begin a deep breathing program right away.
The great thing about deep breathing is there are no side effects because this is a is natural and healthy way to breathe. It is a practice that anyone can quickly learn and benefit from.
If the pandemic and its effects have you struggling with worry, you can use deep breathing to feel more relaxed. Begin practicing deep breathing strategies today to begin experiencing more peace and calm in the storms of life!
Get ready to journey into the depths of your inner self! With Modern Mindfulness: A Beginners Guide on How to Find Peace and Happiness in a Busy World, you’ll discover how to live far more peacefully. Pick up your copy today and begin your quest for calmness!