Anxiety has been a topic of great interest to me recently. I’ve pored over research, pondered extensively, talked to many people about it and brainstormed some creative solutions. That’s why I created an online course, entitled Annihilate Anxiety, which will be available very, very soon (check out the website here for more information).
When it comes to transcending anxiety, one key element is deep breathing.
Enter the breath…
The breath is the gateway to self-mastery.
Whatever you do, do not underrate the practice of breathing. Like with most normal human functions (walking is another example), you can easily fool yourself into overlooking its profound power. Just because the act of breathing is so simple does not make it ineffective. It’s actually quite the opposite. Deep breathing is an essential everyday panacea.
What makes the breath unique is that, even though the majority of it is done unconsciously, you can override this process and breathe consciously. This “conscious override” makes it a highly effective, special tool.
As you (hopefully) already know, deep breathing relaxes your body and mind. But the key is to truly, wholeheartedly understand this and be aware of your breathing as often as possible. When you’re aware of your breath, and consciously breathe deeply, you place yourself in a power position to change your mental, emotional and physical state.
Take a second, right now, to be aware of your breath…
Is it shallow? Hurried? Erratic? Where are you breathing into? Your throat? Your chest?
Inhale deeply. Breathe into your belly. Let your stomach expand as you take in air through your nose. Exhale slowly. Do this a few times.
Do you feel the change?
Notice your breath as often as possible, and breathe deeply. Shallow breathing goes hand-in-hand with fear-based emotions (like anxiety), while deep breathing is peaceful and calming.
If you feel anxious, move your focus to your breath. Breathe deeply, and after a few seconds your mind will naturally calm down. Deep breathing doesn’t just help with acute anxiety either. Incorporating conscious, deep breathing in your day-to-day life gives your overall experience a coating of blissful, zen-like centeredness. It’s like breathing yourself into the eye of the storm. There may be utter turbulence surrounding you, but you reside in a place of smirk-inducing serenity.
A mantra that is greatly helpful while deep breathing is “All I have is my breath.” Whenever I feel anxious or too in my head, I repeat that mantra to myself while taking deep breaths. Then, after just a few moments, there is a shift. And I feel much more at peace and centered.
It seems so simple, but deep breathing really works.
One of the best specific breathing techniques for overcoming anxiety is Dr. Andrew Weil’s 4-7-8 Breath. Here’s how to do it:
1. Inhale for a count of 4
2. Hold your breath for a count of 7
3. Exhale for a count of 8
4. Repeat this cycle 4 times
Making this a daily practice is tremendously beneficial. Plus it’s so short that anyone can incorporate it into their day.
Why is deep breathing so effective? (A short list of some benefits that are directly and indirectly related to overcoming anxiety)
- Creates mental awareness
- Creates physical awareness
- Relaxes the body and releases physical tension
- Relaxes the mind and releases mental/emotional tension
- Fosters presence (which is indescribably life-transforming)
- Provides a sense of empowerment
- Creates a “sacred pause”
- Oxygenates the body and brain (healthy body and optimized cognition)
- Readjusts focus (ex/ If you focus on your breath, you won’t focus on what you’re getting anxious about)
- Begets a “higher perspective” (mastering the mind as opposed to being a slave to it)
Deep breathing is an immensely powerful tool with benefits that span the spectrum of existence.
Cultivate breathing awareness.
Inhale serenity, exhale anxiety.
Find your breath.