Anxiety & Learning How to Breathe

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I have been dealing with anxiety and racing thoughts for at least 16 years now. Around the age of 22 I was prescribed anti-depression/anti-anxiety medications. I hated them, I did not like being a zombie. The withdrawals when you try to get off of them were even worse. I wound up taking about four different medications for a little over a year before deciding to get off medications completely and search for better answers.

Since then its been up and down for many years trying to figure things out. Most of the time I feel great, but from time to time I can really let my mind wander and its causes anxiety to flare up. So what do we do about it? Its time to fight back and take control little by little.

As I would read and research I remember there was always an article that would pop up mentioning “breathing” or “regulating your breathing” or “learn to meditate”. Finally it sunk in… Why is there always a recommendation to learn how to breathe to reduce anxiety and why is learning how to breathe so important?

Quick Answers
During a panic attack normally caused from anxiety, we over breath or hyperventilate causing a flood of oxygen into our system. This overflow of oxygen along with quick shallow breathing will trigger our panic receptors. Breathing properly or using breathing techniques can help us regulate our heart rate and allow our body’s to relax.

Long Answers
Most people aren’t really conscious of the way they’re breathing, but generally, there are two types of breathing patterns:

  1. Chest (Thoracic) breathing
  2. Belly (Diaphragm/Abdominal) breathing

Chest Breathing
When we are anxious or experiencing a panic attack we tend to take rapid, shallow breaths that come directly from the chest. This area of the upper chest is where the panic receptors live. This type of breathing is called thoracic or chest breathing.

Belly Breathing
This is when the inhale of your breath causes the belly to stick out rounded. Then as you exhale the belly goes to a normal resting position. The diaphragm is where your calming receptors are located so our belly breathing tells your body to calm down. The more we exercise this diaphragm area the better and more effective your breathing will be when we need it.

There are many other benefits that belly breathing can have such as:

  • It helps you relax, lowering the harmful effects of the stress hormone cortisol on your body.
  • It lowers your heart rate.
  • It helps lower your blood pressure.
  • It strengthens the diaphragm and lungs.
  • It improves your core muscle stability.
  • It improves your body’s ability to tolerate intense exercise.
  • It allows air/oxygen to fill other deeper spaces of your lungs
  • It slows your rate of breathing so that it expends less energy.
  • It reduces stress
  • It is a basic meditation breathing pattern
How to Belly Breath

Try This Test
Let see where you are breathing from, the chest or the tummy. Put your left hand on your chest and your right hand on your belly, which is just below your rib cage above your belly button. Then breathe how you normally would breathe. Are you breathing from the chest are or you breathing correctly from your diaphragm.

Why is it important to strengthen the lungs?
If we look at a photo of your heart we can notice that our heart has a direct connection to the lungs. This is something unique to our system, no other organ has a direct connection to the heart. Just looking at that photo says “bad lungs bad heart”. Also in Eastern medicine if the lungs are unhealthy it will overflow to the liver.

Your First Breathing Exercise
This video below is Wim Hof and he is a master of breathing. If you can learn this breathing technique, I think it will change the way you feel about breathing exercises. It is extremely powerful and can cause you to pass out so be careful and lay down when attempting for your first few tries. Its very intense and its proven to create an Alkaline environment inside your body from all the oxygen you will bring in. You will be left feeling charged and renewed. Its hard work, but its worth it.

Learn from the master himself Wim Hof

Tummo (Fire) Breathing
See the video below this paragraph or use the above link. Tummo is a little more advanced version of the video above. It shows how to sink your breath into your diaphragm. This in my favorite technique and its has been a huge relief for me when I’m experiencing anxiety. I will go between the basic Wim Hoff breathing and Tummo breathing on a daily basis.

Some Philosophy
Dr Phil said somewhere that if you keep taking withdrawals from your bank and never put in any deposits… you will find your self broke. Same goes for your body, if you are not depositing or investing into your body and all you do is take withdrawals… One day your body will be broke. Breathing exercises strengthens the lungs and energizes your body to be more under your control. Learning how to work our bodies and unlock its potentials.

One interesting belief in Eastern Medicine is that you only get so many breaths in our lifetime. The more control we have over that expenditure the better we can control of our thoughts.

My Opinions
Mastering your Anxious mind… The cure isn’t overnight and its not going to be easy. It’s going to take an accumulation of changes that then result as the reward. Actions create results. Good Actions = Good Results.

If you want to make a difference in your life, don’t do the same things you did yesterday that caused failure. Today we push ourselves to do the things that might have been once considered too difficult. Overcome and adapt, don’t sit and wait for the fix, get off the couch and find happiness.

I do believe that breathing and breathing exercises are one of the keys to solving your anxious mind. Stop looking to the future and live now in this moment. Comfort is addicting, get uncomfortable and explore who you are and experience why we feel certain ways. Breathing will allow you to relax, work on your health and be a better more focused human in life. Lets do this.

More Info and Breathing Technique Resources:

He has trained Jiu Jitsu under Master Rickson Gracie
Interesting story with Wim Hoff

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