Breathe to induce calm and become anxiety free
Breathing is powerful in determining our physical state and is a fantastic tool at your disposal to help you become anxiety free. Normal rates of breathing maintain the right balance of oxygen and carbon dioxide in our bodies at any given time (think back to science lessons in school – we breathe in oxygen as required by our body, and breath out carbon dioxide as a by-product of the constant chemical reactions going on inside us).
When our breathing becomes elevated (breathing faster than normal) it can cause over-breathing (hyperventilation), causing us to take in far too much oxygen, and upsetting our body’s balance of oxygen and carbon dioxide. This causes a number of uncomfortable sensations such as racing heart, dizziness, light-headedness and tingling sensations around our body, which can increase our stress, worry and anxiety if we don’t know what is going on. By developing better breathing habits you can get control of your breathing and become anxiety free. Follow the easy steps below to learn to calm yourself anywhere, anytime.
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.
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.
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.
Keeping breathing rates normal, understanding anxiety, and knowing what is going on in your body is a great way to reduce your anxious reactions to situations that cause you stress. Look here for more information on how understanding and accepting uncomfortable thoughts, feelings and sensations help to keep anxiety levels low.