Just Breathe!

Gerald Tarlow, Ph.D. Health Guide
  •      One of the most powerful techniques to reduce physical symptoms of anxiety is breathing.  Many people I work with are unaware that they are breathing incorrectly and may even be creating some of the physical symptoms of anxiety that they dread.   I always tell my patients that one of the great advantages of healthy breathing is that it is portable.  You can use it anytime and anywhere.  Breathing correctly can work very quickly in reducing the physical symptoms of anxiety. 


         There are three main components of breathing for relaxation.  The first is to breathe slowly.  Initially, I try to teach people to breathe at about 10 breaths per minute.  Try to inhale for 3 seconds, then pause slightly and then exhale for 3 seconds.  If you get comfortable with this pace you can then practice slowing down your breathing rate by inhaling and exhaling for four seconds.  Second, I advocate that people inhale and exhale through their nose.  Very often when people inhale through their mouth they take in too much oxygen.  This can lead to hyperventilation.  Finally, try to breathe diaphragmatically.  Diaphramtaic breathing occurs when you expand your stomach rather than just expanding your chest. 

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         I generally want people to practice for 5 minutes a day without doing anything else during the practice.  After a week or two of this type of practice I ask people to start practicing the breathing in everyday situations such as driving or watching television.  Learning to breathe properly is a skill that can be used to help treat many different types of anxiety disorders and help reduce daily stress.

Published On: June 30, 2008