Breathing exercises are a key skill for coping with any kind of dysregulation. Slowing the pace of your breath down allows you to consciously influence the state of your nervous system to bring your levels of stress down (or up) so they are moderate. For all therapeutic change stress levels need to be at a moderate level of intensity (not too much, not too little).
Making your exhales longer than usual each time you breathe out is another tip because the part of your nervous system that calms the stress response down (called the parasympathetic nervous system) is active when you exhale. Here is an exercise you can do to get you started.
Disclaimer: All tips and exercises provided are for educational purposes only. Remember to consult with your medical doctor before doing this or any of the exercises. Do not drive or operate machinery while doing this or any exercises.
Breathing Exercise for Anxiety:
- Breathe comfortably: Start by slowly and comfortably breathing in at a pace that is enjoyable for you. Make it rhythmic because this calms the brainstem, which is the first step in therapeutic repair as all else depends on the regulation of this region of the brain.
- Count the length of breaths: If it helps to, count out the length of your breaths.
- Breathe in, hold, breathe out: Breathe in one-two-three-four, hold for two seconds. Breathe out, one-two-three-four-five-six-seven-eight.
- Observe sensations: Notice any enjoyable sensations or effects in your body from doing this. This helps to reinforce the desire and habit to engage in this exercise.
- Continue: Continue this for however long it is enjoyable. You can start with a few cycles of breaths and work up to 5 minutes or more.
- Finish by thanking yourself: You may wish to pause or take a break. You can take this time to thank yourself for making the time for your needs and caring for your mind and body. Many underestimate the impact a simple act of gratitude towards ourselves can have.
Best wishes until the next exercise.