Do Breathing Exercises Really Help With Anxiety?

You've probably heard the advice to take a deep breath if you've ever felt anxious. Come to find out, there's a good reason behind this suggestion, as breathing exercises are a healthy way to cope with anxiety (via Mayo Clinic).

How you breathe affects your entire body, which is why it's important to be aware of how you are doing it. Deep breathing is one of the best ways to help your body relieve tension. According to experts, when you take a deep breath, you are telling your brain to relax, which in turn delivers the message to your body (via University of Michigan Medicine). Taking deep breaths when you feel stressed can decrease high blood pressure and a rapid heart rate.

On the other hand, shallow breathing, which uses the chest muscles instead of the diaphragm to do most of the breathing, can increase stress because the lower part of the lungs do not receive enough oxygen. This lack of oxygen often leads to stress and anxiety (via Harvard Health Publishing).

Many forms of breathing exercises work to lower anxiety. Some of them involve movement, but others are quite simple and can be done almost anywhere.

Deep breathing techniques to relieve stress

One way to lower anxiety is to focus on your exhalation while taking deep breaths. According to Healthline, exhaling is the part of breathing that signals the body to relax. Begin with a thorough exhale and let your lungs fill back up naturally for several minutes.

Another way to manage anxiety is to practice diaphragm breathing, which allows your lungs to fill completely with oxygen. A good way to practice this exercise is to lie down on your back with one palm on your chest and one on your belly. Inhale by using your stomach muscles while keeping your chest still. Practice for ten minutes a few times a day.

Sitting quietly and breathing deeply while focusing your attention solely on your breath for about 20 minutes can also calm rattled nerves.

So the next time you feel a wave of anxiety coming on, take some time to de-stress by taking some deep breaths.

If you or someone you know is struggling with mental health, please contact the Crisis Text Line by texting HOME to 741741, call the National Alliance on Mental Illness helpline at 1-800-950-NAMI (6264), or visit the National Institute of Mental Health website.