If you have ever run after your breath but failed to catch it, your heart slamming against your chest and drowning out the sound of the rest of the world, then you like me, might just have tasted anxiety. Its bitter taste may have stopped you from standing up for yourself, from going to that interview, or from simply asking that person you like out. And in those moments, people will often tell you to “calm down” which has barely ever helped anyone because many of us get through life without knowing how to actually calm down.
The key to calming down is to breathe; yes, your everyday autonomic bodily function that is controlled by the brain’s respiratory centre. According to “Physiology, Respiratory Drive”, an article onn the National Library of Medicine website (an official website of the United States of America) breathing’s fundamental function is to absorb oxygen and expel carbon dioxide through the movement of the lungs. However, in stressful situations, our breathing pattern changes, and the anxious person typically breathes very shallowly, using their shoulders to transfer air into and out of their lungs instead of their diaphragm. The body’s gas equilibrium is upset by this breathing pattern. Stress can be reduced by engaging in simple techniques like breathing exercises when it comes to common issues like test anxiety.
One of the most popular breathing techniques which can help with anxiety is the 4-7-8 breathing technique developed by Dr. Andrew Weil. The approach is based on pranayama, an old yogic practice that aids practitioners in gaining control over their breathing, says Timothy J. Legg on the Healthline website. The 4-7-8 method, sometimes referred to as “relax breathing”, is a quick and easy approach for someone to calm any place.
How to do it
Concentrate on the following breathing pattern to apply the 4-7-8 technique:
Empty the lungs of air
Inhale slowly through the nose for four seconds
Hold your breath for seven seconds
Then forcibly expel through the mouth for eight seconds while generating a “whoosh” sound.
Repeat the cycle up to four times.
Maintaining the ratio is more crucial in this strategy than maintaining it for the duration of the name-specified period. If you can only hold your breath for a maximum of five seconds, you would need to take in air for 2.9 seconds and exhale for 4.6 seconds. Additionally, it is advised to have a seat when practicing this method because it might make you feel a little dizzy the first couple of times. The 4-7-8 technique is a deep breathing technique and like many others in this category, there are some health benefits that include improved energy, lower blood pressure, and improved posture.
Do not simply fill your chest; also fill your stomach, that is, make sure that you are breathing into your stomach. To check if you are doing this, you can lay one hand on your tummy and the other on your chest. Take a deep breath and check to see whether your hand is rising from your tummy. Attempt to become conscious of your breathing, heartbeat, and physical tension.
There are also apps that will help you integrate this technique into your daily routine and set reminders. One that was recommended in an article in the Medical News Today site is Prana Breath: Calm & Meditate, and one that I have personally used is 4-7-8 Relax Breathing.
Breathing exercises are one of the tools that may help make the journey toward learning to live with your anxiety a little bit easier. So, the next time you encounter anxiety, whip out one of these apps or simply reach into memory and try this breathing technique to calm down.
Tell us: Try the 4-7-8 technique explained here next time you are anxious and let us know if it helped you calm down.