breathing exercises for anxiety

We are living in stressful times. It is natural to feel anxious when faced with today’s challenges and uncertainty. In fact, anxiety is your body’s natural response to stress. When you start to feel overwhelmed, though, you can try these five breathing exercises for anxiety.

Coping with Anxiety

Anxiety can be useful because it makes sure that people are alert and aware in the face of danger. For some people, however, it can disrupt their everyday life. Sometimes, anxiety can become overwhelming, which may cause unease, distress, or dread. Experts often recommend breathing exercises as a way to cope with anxiety. Such exercises help people slow their heart rate and feel calm.

Breathing and Anxiety

Breathing can actually contribute to anxiety. Improper breathing can upset the oxygen and carbon dioxide exchange and contribute to anxiety, panic attacks, fatigue, and other physical and emotional disturbances. Most people aren’t really conscious of the way they’re breathing, but generally, there are two types of breathing patterns: diaphragmatic (abdominal) breathing and thoracic (chest) breathing.

When people are anxious, they tend to take rapid, shallow breaths that come directly from the chest. This type of breathing is called thoracic or chest breathing. When you’re feeling anxious, you may not even be aware you’re breathing this way.

Chest breathing causes an upset in the oxygen and carbon dioxide levels in the body, resulting in increased heart rate, dizziness, muscle tension, and other physical sensations. Your blood is not being properly oxygenated and this may signal a stress response that contributes to anxiety and panic attacks.

When you feel overwhelmed, try one of these techniques for breathing exercises for anxiety.

Deep Breathing

Deep breathing is simple but effective. You can do it anywhere, while sitting, standing up, or lying down. To deep breathe:

  • Relax the tummy.
  • Place one hand just beneath the ribs.
  • Breathe in slowly and deeply through the nose, noticing the hand rise.
  • Breathe out through the mouth, noticing the hand fall.

Quieting Response

The quieting response method combines deep breathing with visualization to help reduce stress and anxiety. You should first relax all the muscles in your face and shoulders and imagine having holes in the soles of your feet. Then:

  • Take a deep breath, visualizing the breath as hot air entering the body through the holes in the soles of the feet.
  • Imagine the hot air flowing up the legs, through the tummy, and then filling the lungs.
  • Relax each muscle as the hot air passes it.
  • Breathe out slowly, imagining the air passing from the lungs back into the tummy, then the legs, before leaving the body through the holes in the soles of the feet.
  • Repeat until calm.

Mindful Breathing

Mindful breathing uses mindfulness to help you focus on the here and now. To practice mindful breathing, sit or lie in a comfortable position with your eyes open or closed. Then:

  • Inhale through the nose until the tummy expands.
  • Slowly let the breath out through the mouth.
  • Once settled into the pattern, focus on the breath coming in through the nose and out through the mouth.
  • Notice the rise and fall of the tummy as the breaths come in and out.
  • As thoughts come into the head, notice that they are there without judgment, then let them go and bring the attention back to the breathing.
  • Carry on until feeling calm, then start to be aware of how the body and mind feel.

Diaphragmatic Breathing

Doctors usually recommend diaphragmatic breathing to people with a lung condition called chronic obstructive pulmonary disease; however, a recent study found that it can also help reduce anxiety. Start by either sitting up or lying down. Then:

  • Place one hand on the tummy and the other on the upper chest.
  • Breathe in through the nose, focusing on the tummy rising.
  • Breathe out through pursed lips, focusing on the tummy lowering.
  • Repeat the cycle.

4-7-8 Breathing

This technique is a quick and simple way for you to relax anywhere. Sit down with your back straight and the tip of your tongue on the back of your upper front teeth. Then:

  • Breathe out through the mouth, making a whooshing sound.
  • Close the mouth and count to 4 while breathing in through the nose.
  • Count to 7 while holding the breath.
  • Count to 8 while breathing out through the mouth, making a whooshing sound.
  • Inhale, then repeat three times.

Contact South Miami Recovery for Help with Your Anxiety

At South Miami Recovery, we offer you evidence-based therapies to help with your stress and anxiety, including mindfulness therapy. We know that your well-being is of the utmost importance during the COVID-19 pandemic. South Miami Recovery offers HIPAA-compliant telehealth services so you can get the treatment you need now. Contact us today for help. Call South Miami Recovery at 305.661.0055.

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Using Mindfulness to Fight Opioid Addiction

How often do you perform a task without thinking about what you’re doing? Everyone reverts to autopilot at some point in their day. They drive to work, eat their lunch or check their email, all while being distracted by a constant flow of random thoughts.

Distraction takes a toll on all of us. When we aren’t fully aware of what we’re doing or why we’re doing it, we open ourselves to unproductive days and destructive impulses. People with substance use disorders are particularly susceptible to thoughts and emotions that affect their self-control. That’s why addiction professionals have increasingly seen the value in using mindfulness to fight opioid addiction.

For those who have never practiced mindfulness, it can sound like a trite solution to a serious problem. However, the simplicity of mindfulness is perhaps its greatest strength. By being aware of how you feel and what you’re doing, you gain more control over your actions and open yourself up to a richer, more engaged life.

What Is Mindfulness?

Mindfulness is a state of awareness. When you are mindful of what you’re doing, you’re not distracted by a stream of thoughts about what you need to do at work or what someone said that offended you. You are present in the moment, focusing on whatever task you’re doing.

As a concept, mindfulness is simple. As a practice, it’s more challenging. Distraction looms around every corner in our daily lives. People are constantly bombarded by intrusive, unhelpful thoughts. Mobile devices send never-ending notifications. Social media platforms make sure we always have something to draw our attention.

Mindfulness is the opposite of distraction, and it is the perfect antidote to everyday enemies of focus. One can be mindful of the meal they’re preparing or the dishes they are washing. Instead of mindlessly doing these tasks, distracted by all those thoughts that typically demand our attention, a person is conscious of each action they perform, fully engaged in the task.

Why Mindfulness is a State Worth Striving For

Because you face so many distractions, you are often living anywhere but the present moment. You aren’t fully aware of what you’re doing or how you feel. When you aren’t engaged in the task in front of you, you become automated. Buddhists call this the “monkey mind,” the state of being restless, confused, distracted or uncontrolled.

For people struggling with addiction, their monkey minds are fraught with impulses, urges and unconscious behaviors, all of which make giving into the temptation of substance use more likely. With mindfulness, people learn to be aware of how they are feeling and why they feel that way. This helps identify impulses to engage in unhealthy behaviors and refrain from acting in ways that aren’t in your best interest.

How to Improve Mindfulness

You can improve mindfulness in several ways. One of the most common methods to cultivate mindfulness is meditation. Though meditation is a broad term encompassing many different practices, basic mindfulness meditation often includes focusing on the breath and allowing thoughts to come and go without judgment.

Breathing exercises, mental body scans and yoga can effectively improve a person’s ability to be present in the moment and less influenced by unhelpful thoughts. Mindfulness practices offer several health benefits, including alleviating stress, depression, chronic pain and destructive impulses.

Using Mindfulness to Fight Opioid Addiction

Researchers have found evidence that mindfulness-based interventions are valuable in addiction treatment. Though this field is still new and less studied than other forms of treatment, addiction professionals have reasons to be optimistic about using mindfulness to fight opioid addiction.

A recent study from researchers at Rutgers University found that mindfulness practices can improve self-awareness and self-control. Participants in the study found mindfulness reduced cravings for opiates and increased pleasure derived from people, places and things that often fail to engage people suffering from addictions.

Treating Addiction Requires a Holistic Approach

When mindfulness and meditation first became popular in the United States, westerners were skeptical of its value. However, in contrast to a host of other new age treatments that have been studied and dismissed by the scientific community, mindfulness has proved its worth in countless studies.

Addiction treatment professionals understand that confronting addiction requires more than just treating the physical symptoms of a substance use disorder. Effective treatment requires a multi-pronged approach that addresses someone’s physical, emotional and spiritual needs.

If You Want Help, Contact South Miami Recovery

At South Miami Recovery, we believe in the importance of treating the whole person. Each of our clients has their own unique needs and preferences. We work with everyone to find the right path, providing several tools to help them in their recovery.

If you’d like to learn more about our services, we encourage you to contact us today to speak to our staff. We speak English and Spanish. Call South Miami Recovery at 305.661.0055.

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