When you feel anxious your breathing can change. It might get faster or more shallow. It may be hard for you to catch your breath. There are some steps you can take. And if you practise for 2 minutes every day, you’ll be ready if you feel anxious again. Let’s get started. Take a deep slow breath in through your nose and out through your mouth in a steady rhythm. Do this a couple of times. Now, try again. This time breathe out for twice as long as you breathe in. Count in for 1, 2 seconds. Count out for 1, 2, 3, 4 seconds. It gets easier with practice.
Now let’s look at your diaphragm – that’s the muscle under your lungs. When you breathe, your diaphragm stretches downwards as your lungs fill with air and get bigger. It helps your stomach move forward. If you cough you can feel your diaphragm push out (coughing sound). When people are anxious they just use the top of their lungs when they breathe. Their stomach doesn’t move. Let’s see how that feels. Put one hand on the top of your chest and one on your stomach. Which hand moves most when you cough? Try to breathe in a way that moves your stomach in and out more than your chest. Can you feel the difference? What do you notice? As you relax you’ll find it easier to breathe; that’s because your upper body muscles and throat relax too.
Let your arms hang loose at your side. Unclench your hands and give them a gentle shake. Notice how they feel. Does feeling anxious make your neck and shoulder muscles tense? You might be using those muscles to breathe more than those you typically use in your chest and back. Try this. Gently shrug your shoulders and relax. Let your arms hang by your side. Relax your hands. Your arms are really heavy. Just doing this will stretch your shoulders and make it easier for you to use your diaphragm to breathe. How does it feel? Your breathing will improve if you practise.
You can try each technique in any order and at any time. Just one or two minutes every day and you will soon notice a difference. Remember: Breathe in for two seconds, out for four. Arms by your side. Relax your hands and shoulders. Practise every day and find what works for you.