Using Mindful Breathing to Control Anxiety

Martial arts has taught me lots of things. One of the best things it’s taught me is mindful breathing. This is paying attention to how I breathe. Breathing mindfully has helped me learn how to control stress and anxiety in nearly any situation. That’s why I want to share it with you today.

Using Mindful Breathing While Sparring

For those of you that don’t come from a martial arts background, sparring is controlled fighting. It is practicing your martial skills with an opponent in a relatively safe environment.

The interesting thing about sparring is that it brings up the same emotions as a real fight. That’s because you’re body reacts to stress by putting you into the fight, flight or freeze mode. This mode sends chemicals throughout your bloodstream to get you ready to freeze, run away or fight.

When martial arts students first begin sparring they are not very good at it. This is for two reasons. First, and most obvious, is they haven’t developed the necessary skills. It takes a lot of practice to be good at kicking, punching and grappling with a live opponent.

Second, when you are sparring, mindful breathing is hard simply because you are in the fight, flight or freeze mode. This mode short circuits your ability to think because you are anxious about getting hurt. This short circuit can cause you to hyperventilate, which is extremely debilitating. 

By the way, this is perfectly normal! When former boxing champion Sugar Ray Leonard was asked about what would be the most difficult part of getting back into the ring his quick, and honest reply was, “Getting hit in the face.” Anyone who’s been there knows he’s 100% right.

What Does This Have to Do With Anxiety?

Like not wanting to get punched in the face, anxiety, or stress is a normal reaction to “being attacked”. Now this attack doesn’t have to be a physical attack, like when sparring. It merely needs to be a perceived attack, like a sharp word from a co-worker or a near miss on the freeway. Just like the punch in the fact, these situations can set of your fight, flight or freeze response

Students become better at sparring when they learn to control their breathing. You see, when you engage in mindful breathing, your body stays calm. Your body begins to relax. Now you can spar and enjoy the process. Even if you get hit in the face!

The same goes for you as you go through your day. By learning how to breathe mindfully, you will be able to stay calm and get through whatever “attack” you encounter.   

How to Practice Mindful Breathing

By concentrating on breathing fully – all the way down to your abdomen – you will be able to improve your relaxation response to stressful situations. That’s why the first thing you should focus on is getting the air you are breathing down into your abdomen. If you find your chest rising with each breath, you’re not bringing enough oxygen into your bloodstream. You need to keep the oxygen flowing if you want to stay calm.  

Here’s how you can use mindful breathing to keep the oxygen flowing:

Place a hand just above your belly button and breathe. If you’re breathing deeply, your hand will rise and fall with each breath.

Practice breathing slowly by taking full, deep breaths. You might feel a bit strange at first because you’re not used to it. You may even feel a bit giddy, but that’s normal. It’ll pass with practice.

You’re getting plenty of air, even if you don’t feel like you are. Your lungs can expand without your upper chest rising. Only your upper belly needs to rise and fall. At first, you probably won’t breathe this way unless you’re thinking about it because, like most people, you’re conditioned to breathe from your chest. Keep practicing and you’ll soon be using mindful breathing all the time, even when you’re not thinking about it.

How Mindful Breathing Affects Anxiety

There are lots of reasons to feel anxious. It may be the product of over-active nerves that react too strongly to stimuli. It may be caused by the environment you’re in.  It can be caused by a chemical imbalance. Regardless of the cause, when you reduce its affects, you can live a more fulfilling life. Anxiety doesn’t have to stop you from living the life you deserve.

By using mindful breathing to lower your anxiety, you may be able to:

  • Change careers or get promoted
  • Speak in front of others without fear
  • Travel to places you’ve always wanted to see
  • Embark on a new relationship or business venture
  • Reduce your dependency on medication or therapy

Always consult your physician before making any changes to any medication or therapy you’re currently using. Mindful breathing is something you can use along with anything else you’re doing to reduce anxiety presently.

Start Using Mindful Breathing Today!

If you struggle with anxiousness and worry, you can take control using mindful breathing. So start using it right away. There are no side effects. It is a natural and healthy way of taking care of yourself. And it’s something that everyone can learn and benefit from.

Begin using mindful breathing today to help you calm your mind and get back into the moment. You’ll find you are feeling more relaxed and in control right away. Use it to find peace in the midst of the storms of your life!

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