1. Check your breathing and become anxiety free
When we get anxious we tend to overbreathe which upsets the balance of oxygen and carbon dioxide in the body. This is because our flight/fight response is triggered by our fear, so our body gets us ready to run or stay and fight. Even though breathing is fairly automatic, we can get it under our control. The rate of breathing when we are calm is about 10-14 breathes a minute.
Normal breathing rates
Use the guide below to help you work out if your resting breathing rate (the rate at which you breathe when you are not exercising) or that of your childs, is inducing relaxation, or stress and anxiety.
- Newborns to 6 months old: 30-60 breaths per minute
- 6 – 12 months: 24-30 breaths per minute
- 1-5 years: 20-30 breaths per minute
- 6-12 years: 12-20 breaths per minute
- Adults: 10-12 breaths per minute
Practice Diaphragmatic breathing to calm your body and mind
To allay the effects of over-breathing and hyperventilation, practice this simple breathing technique every day. With daily practice you will soon be able to automatically use it to calm yourself when feeling anxious, and prevent the anxiety from spiralling out of control.
- Place one hand on your belly just below your ribs, and another hand on your chest.
- Notice if the hand on your chest is rising or if the hand on your belly is rising with each breath you take. If the hand on your chest is rising then you are shallow breathing, which can cause over-breathing. Focus on breathing down to the hand resting on your belly.
- Keep breathing down into the space beneath the hand on your belly so you can feel this hand rising on the ‘in’ breath.
- Breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth, and practice slowing down your breathing.
- In the beginning it can help to use the counting methods below until you have ‘slow breathing’ down pat.
Breathing tips – The 3-1-4 method
Breathe in to the count of 3 – then hold for 1 – then breathe out for the count of 4. The idea is to count longer on the ‘out’ breath than the ‘in’ breath as overbreathing is caused by breathing in too much oxygen.
Breathing tips – The 4-2-6 Method
As you get practiced at the 3-1-4 method, try slowing your breath down even more by using the 4-2-6 method. Breathe in to the count of 4 – then hold for 2 – then breath out for the count of 6. This counting method will help your body relax even faster by balancing your oxygen and carbon dioxide levels more quickly.
Daily practice makes perfect
Find somewhere where you can relax undisturbed. By practicing at least once, and even twice a day, you will be able to reduce your general anxiety levels. Daily practice also means that you will be able to reduce your anxiety in situations that cause you stress and anxiety, and prevent it from escalating.
2. Relaxation techniques
There are many relaxaton techniques you can use to reduce the tension in your body – when you reduce the tension in your muscles, your nervous system can stop being on alert and relax.
Yoga and stretching is a good way to relax tension in your body and release stress. Listening to guided meditation tracks, listening to relaxing music, and the latest trend – colouring in books for adults – are all great ways to relax and be present in the moment. But you do have to schedule these activities into your day. Spend short and regular times throughout the day – 5-10 minutes here and there, to release muscle tension, and free your mind from worry.
3. Psychological therapy
Many therapies aim to address high levels of worry, anxiety and stress.
Gateway Therapy, developed by counsellor Daryl Iannella, is a very effective way of working on anxiety on a deep level to effect changes quickly. Darryl has been training other therapists to use the Gateway techniques, and we will soon be providing a link on this website to a video presentation of how to use the Gateway techniques.
Another very effective treatment is Exposure Therapy. Exposure Therapy can be used in conjunction with all of the techniques here, and with other therapies as well. It can be used as a stand alone therapy and is very effective used this way.
Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) teaches you defusion techniques to distance yourself from your thoughts so you can be in charge of what goes on in your head, and less reactive to the many thoughts and sensations we think and feel every minute. ACT also helps you look at your values and take committed action in accordance with your values. it is funny how separated we can become from our values and we forget about them – but in the act of re-connecting with them, we find our inspiration for how we want to live again.
Cognitive Behavioural therapy (CBT) has also been used effectively to reduce anxiety and increase calm. CBT works on changing thoughts and behaviours and adopting more helpful ones that will lead to a reduction in anxiety symptoms.
Mindfulness techniques have been used in Eastern traditions for thousands of years and help enormously in reducing anxiety. Becoming present in the moment, and increasing self awareness are very effective ways of reducing anxiety symptoms.
See a counsellor or psychologist and ask them about using some or all of the approaches above to re-train your brain and body and improve your wellbeing and quality of life. You may need to look around for a therapist that will be able to give you what you need – ask people, ask your doctor who they can recommend. A good therapist will have you doing homework activities and addressing all areas of your life, not just having a nice chat with nothing changing. So list some questions and ask if they are experienced and successful with helping people with anxiety.
4. Nutrition, Sleep and Exercise
If your body isn’t in a healthy place your brain and your mind will not be able to tolerate the ups and downs of life as easily as someone who is fit, eats well, sleeps longer hours and takes the time to practice relaxation and stress reduction activities. See our Top tips to becoming anxiety free.