This is me:
Anxiety has been something that I have had dealt with since birth. It’s at the level where my therapists and fellow MFT classmates have said that they feel sorry for me because I do not know what it is like to not have anxiety. I’m always picking my fingers, picking my lips, biting the inside of my mouth, pulling my hair out in my sleep, screaming in my sleep, constantly warding off panic attacks, the list goes on… (For those curious, it stems from a long lineage of anxiety on both sides of my family mixed with other difficulties in how I was raised.)
There are a few techniques I have learned over the years on how to better control my anxiety when I start to feel it. Calm music, mantras, designated safety people to talk me down, etc. The most effective is a deep breathing technique that I just recently learned how to do correctly, and it made ALL the difference.
Ok. You are probably sitting upright in your chair. Maybe on your bed, maybe at your desk.
Take a deep breath in. Notice where the air fills in your body. Are you sucking your stomach in? Is your chest puffed out? This is the first problem.
When you inhale and suck your stomach in and your chest out, you are only utilizing 30% of your lungs. That’s depriving your body of a lot more oxygen- the molecule that can help calm you down when you are anxious.
The image below shows how you should breathe properly. When breathing in, your stomach should expand as if it were a balloon inflating. This uses 100% of your lungs and brings in the maximum amount of oxygen. Also keep all the air travel through your nose :)
Now, everything I just shared with you so far is things that I’ve been told to do before. And let me tell you, when you’re in an anxious state this is not what would come to mind. I goofed it up whenever I tried out of panic or inability to pay close enough attention to my body.
Here’s my hack: LAY DOWN.
When you are laying down on your back, your body automatically starts breathing this way.
This simple step has helped me so much. When you are anxious. Just get horizontal, make sure you’re breathing out of your nose, and your body will start to self-correct your breathing pattern itself. Go ahead, try it out. It’s so cool to feel your stomach make that change in your breathing pattern.
Here are some of my further thoughts/theories:
Do you know anyone who can fall asleep super quick once they go to bed? My dad used to, my boyfriend does. I don’t get it. It takes me FOREVER to fall asleep.
What if they were breathing inappropriately (negligent to their breaths- most non-anxious people don’t think about breathing throughout their days) all day and once their body starts using 100% of their lungs, they get so overwhelmed with the calm that they fall asleep easily? Man, must be nice.
With this hack, I’ve started to make it a point to do this type of breathing at least once a day. Lay down and feel your stomach ONCE a day. It makes all the difference!
Once you get to a point where you can do it vertically without a problem, try to remind yourself throughout the day to breathe like that even for just a few times (I know it can make me look pregnant if I didn’t walk around holding my tummy in all day, so I’m not suggesting that). The past 3 months I’ve consciously made efforts to do this, and it honestly helps prevent anxious symptoms.