When it comes to stopping the worry cycle, breathing is one of the best tools ever.
First of all, you’re always breathing, so you can easily use it to your advantage.
You just need to know how – and to think about it!
A little note on that one. Try and practice the breathing techniques below as often as you can (and especially when you don’t feel particularly nervous or worried) so that when you do need them, you think about them and know exactly what to do.
Another reason why breathing is so powerful is that the techniques are really easy. Anybody can do them.
So, have a go at the 4 techniques below. You will probably find that 1 or 2 of them feel more natural to you or seem to work better for you. If that is the case, focus on these ones. You don’t need to do all of them.
All of these techniques revolve around one central idea: when we feel tense or worried, our breathing becomes very shallow.
This is a natural reaction to the stress hormones being produced in the body when we feel worried or scared.
And a shallow breathing perpetuates the worry and tension as it sends signals to the brain that there really is something to worry about.
If you carry on breathing in that way, you will make yourself even more worried.
So, to break that worry cycle, you want to change the way you breathe.
And the 4 techniques below have been proven to have a positive impact on reducing stress, worry and anxiety.
Diaphragmatic breathing (aka belly breath)
I love that one. It is so relaxing – and very very easy!
You can practice it lying down, sitting or standing.
If you are new to practising this technique, it is usually easier to start lying down.
Lie on your back with your legs bent and feet flat on the floor. Place your hands on your abdomen (one hand above the navel and one hand below).
Breathe in and notice if you feel your abdomen rising as you do so. As you breathe out, you will feel the action of your diaphragm (just underneath your lungs), pushing the air up and out and your abdomen will lower down.
It can be tempting to try and force the movement of the abdomen, especially if you don’t notice much of a rise and fall but try and resist that temptation.
As you carry on breathing normally and just observing the breath and the movements of your abdomen, you will notice that the rise and fall become more noticeable.
Practice this for 5-10 minutes before rolling over to one side and coming up to sitting.
Once you are comfortable doing it lying down, you can proceed in the same way while sitting up or standing.
Alternate nostril breath
This method is probably one of the most efficient of all breathing techniques to help you calm down.
I have personally used it many times when I could feel a panic attack coming on. And it has never let me down, every time I practised it, I managed to avoid full blown panic attacks.
You can practise this technique lying down, sitting or standing.
If you are new to this one, it is easiest to start practising while sitting up. Place your right thumb by the right nostril and your little finger by your left nostril.
Start by closing the left nostril and breathe in through the right.
Close the right nostril, open the left and breathe out through the left.
Breathe in through the left nostril, close it with your finger and breathe out through the right.
Start the cycle again by breathing in through the right nostril.
Try and practise for up to 5 minutes.
If at any point during your practice you feel uncomfortable, return to your normal breathing.
Brahmari breath (aka humming bee breath)
This technique is brilliant at calming your mind and alleviating the physical manifestations of stress. It also diffuses anxiety and other negative emotions.
Personally, I also find it very uplifting.
Sit comfortably, breathe in and as you breathe out, start to gently hum. Keep your exhalation slow and at an even pace.
Practice for up to 5 minutes.
A word of caution: Do not practice this technique if you have an ear infection.
Equal ratio breathing
You might have noticed while practising the diaphragmatic breath that your mind still wanders and that it isn’t quite enough to calm you down and dissolve the worry.
If that is the case, adding breathing ratios should really help.
Sometimes, I find that, despite focusing on my breath and practising the belly breath, my mind still manages to keep worrying somewhere in the background. Adding the ratio has always helped me to really focus on my breath and to let my worries slip away.
You can practice this technique lying down, sitting or standing.
Breathe in for a count of 4, mark a very short pause at the end of your inbreath and breathe out for a count of 4.
It is that simple. Count to 4 as you breathe in. Take a mini pause. Count to 4 as you breathe out.
Stay with this practice for as long as comfortable.
You might find that as you practice any of the above techniques, your breathing capacity increases and a count of 5 or 6 becomes more appropriate. Do what feels right for you. The main thing with this technique is to ensure that the outbreath and the inbreath are the same length.
These techniques have literally changed my life as they have enabled me to manage my stress and anxiety so that it doesn’t stand in my way anymore.
Click on the link below to get my 3 tried and tested ways to stop the worry cycle so that you can get in the driving seat of your life.