Anxiety: When our breathing overreacts in an unbalanced way.
Anxiety: When Our Breathing Overreacts in an Unbalanced Way
JUNE 27, 2023
Anything you do 4,000 to 20,000 times a day will influence you in ways you never may have considered. Your breathing controls 95% of your fuel-to-energy production and flow. The entire autonomic nervous system and the functioning of our internal organs are largely driven by our breathing patterns, be they good or bad.
By changing our breathing we can influence millions of biochemical reactions in our body. We also can produce more relaxing substances such as endorphins and fewer anxiety-producing ones like cortisol, adrenaline, inflammation and the toxins which contribute to blood acidity.
The Runaway Anxiety Bus
Let's recall two wise ancient laws: "Breath is life” and "Control your breathing, and you control your life."
The way you breathe can make you really sick or make you well. Anxiety, blood pressure, phobias, addictions, asthma, anger or pain reduction, constipation, calming, and relaxation are all linked in whole or in part to certain ways of breathing.
Breathing can drive your nervous system in two very different ways: as if you were a five-year-old child at the wheel of a fast-moving bus in rush hour traffic or as if you were a veteran Formula 1 driver cruising in control at 200 miles per hour. Most of us fall someplace in between.
When stress arises, it is one thing to be alerted to and calmly avoid a threat, but it is altogether another thing to overreact with fear, fight, fainting, freezing, fumbling, or addiction to inappropriate actions like drinking, smoking, fighting, sexing, zealotry or other excessive activity.
For most people, a certain level of anxiety becomes a daily occurrence that they, unfortunately, get used to. From or along with this comes distorted breathing patterns, which take over the job of "driving the bus." Excessive stress, trauma, or anxiety worsens breathing problems, further increasing our anxiety and nervousness and leading to a decline in health. Failed attempts to stay in control of the runaway bus and change the way we feel only make things worse.
When our breathing is not in balance, our reactions to the activities we face in our daily lives tend to become distorted and negatively magnified.
One can interpret anything as negative.
The mind can trigger unbalanced breathing and nervousness, which can worsen to full-blown panic, high blood pressure, migraine headaches, hot flashes, ulcers, constipation, heart attacks, and strokes. With breathing semi-permanently out of balance, overreactions to perfectly harmless events can be just as damaging as a real threat.
There are many contributors to anxiety and increases in emotional pain. Some include toxic foods, food additives, refined sugar, alcohol, caffeine, adrenal dysfunction, and prescription or recreational drugs. Situations in life that are potentially or presently threatening cause anxiety. The idea that you do not have enough time to accomplish this or that is another potent cause of anxiety.
All too often, we forget that we can choose our project load and completion timelines, but instead, take on too many projects or responsibilities that invite anxiety. Of course, spending too much money and getting into debt begets worrying and major anxiety, as does being out of work.
When our breathing overreacts in an unbalanced way, the body typically tightens in several areas. Holding our breath or breathing shallowly to try to stay in control only worsens the situation by creating oxygen deprivation and more tension, heightening the stress response.
Then the tension sets in to stay.
This further restricts respiration and produces shallow, rapid distorted breathing. Shallow breathing numbs our feelings and traps the anxiety inside, blocking smooth energy flow. This, in turn, triggers more physiological or psychological arousal, sending us up the anxiety and confusion escalator and then possibly down into depression, malaise, and confusion. Psychosomatic illness greatly stems from this process.
Anxiety About Anxiety, aka Fear of Fear
One's belief system can make anxiety more or less; a bit like voodoo in that we convince ourselves that it's not so bad or it's terrible, and our body and breathing suffer the consequences. There is an Anxiety Sensitivity Index ASI. Google it.
Taking Control & Restoring Calm With Breathing
Trying to change a bad habit without changing your breathing pattern is a lot like trying to stay calm while swimming upstream against a rampage of logs, boats, snakes and hungry alligators coming downstream.
Generally, the first line of defense against anxiety is to remove negative stimuli. If the caffeine you are ingesting is making you jittery, stop drinking caffeinated beverages and eating chocolate treats. If there is a snake in the room, remove the snake or leave the area!
If your environment invites too many unhealthful temptations and you feel the need for a safe house, take a vacation at a retreat center or a tropical island where you can leave it all behind. If those ideas are impractical, instead of smoking, boozing, taking drugs or abusing comfort foods to calm yourself down or numb yourself out, you can reduce your anxious reactions by changing your breathing.
You can consciously slow down AND balance your breathing to reduce your anxiety level. In fact, you can learn how to do this at will and, often, with completely calming results.
Anxiety & Panic Attack Stopping Exercise
The good news is that our nervous system responses to all stressors can be managed well with proper breathing patterns that are maintained and strengthened by specific breathing techniques and exercises.
Here is an exercise to practice that has been known to stop anxiety or panic attacks immediately.
Stand and press your thumbs into your back over your kidneys (the soft spots below your rib cage and pelvis). Bring your fingers around towards your belly button. Exhale, then squeeze (not pinch) your fingers and thumbs together. Now, breathe in against the pressure, forcing the thumbs and fingers apart as you fill and expand your lower, belly, back, and sides. Release your finger pressure and passively exhale.
Repeat the exercise, this time counting slowly to 4 on the inhale. Then very, very slowly exhale, holding back the breath and counting to 8 while making sure you do not tense your belly. This is often called The 1 Minute Miracle Relaxer, but I originally called it The Optimal Squeeze and Breathe.
Here it is in video format.
This exercise can be quite helpful as a lightning-fast approach to relieving anxiety. In some cases, however, the body may actually need more oxygen and not necessarily a slowing down of the breath.
The Ultimate Strategy for Steady Calm & Happiness
The best approach is to manage the immediate anxiety and change your breathing patterns so that you automatically stay calm and avoid becoming over-anxious in the first place. "Courage under fire" might be one way of looking at it, but it is really more about grounding, relaxing, and feeling safe and calm inside one's self. This is where our training programs really shine because they make breathing stable to where you do not have to pay attention to it.
Along with breathing, another tool for handling any episode of emotional stress is to simply focus one's attention on the feelings that arise, feeling them deeply and allowing them to flow. Well-grounded, natural breathing allows us to feel our feelings, relax, release stress, and address anxiety more rationally. Our Self-Help Training Program guides you around this.
Practice does not make perfect. PERFECT practice makes perfect.
Breathing well most often requires doing the same but still proper thing consistently until it becomes a habit. Some pay too much attention to their breathing, some too little. Many have forgotten or never known what grounded, balanced and centered breathing feels like. Just like tasting cherimoya or chocolate is necessary to truly know the flavors, reading about balanced breathing will never impart the knowledge or the proper feeling.
Breath really is life.
The way we breathe either improves or worsens every aspect of life. My recommendation for managing anxiety, blood pressure, phobias, addictions, asthma, anger, and pain and cultivating calming and relaxation is my Deepest Calm Program.
I just wanted to give you some feedback.
I purchased the Deepest Calm program because I had struggled with anxiety for two years. I had talked with a psychologist about it, and although he was wonderful, he could not help me with this. I tried to just forget about it and keep my mind occupied, but this rarely worked (I was successful maybe two days every year when I was on vacation). I tried meditation and that didn't help with this either (sometimes it felt like it made it worse).
I was beginning to get pretty desperate, because this was greatly ruining my quality of life and I was so scared it would never go away. But I also had a feeling that I was looking for solutions in the wrong places, because my anxiety felt very physical (a CONSTANT 24/7 pressure in the chest area). After purchasing and receiving the optimal breathing package, I tried the strapping technique, and it was so incredibly effective I could hardly believe it. The pressure in my chest lessened dramatically right away. I chose a few other techniques I felt drawn to as well, and I picked a few that were helpful and easy to do. In the beginning I had to do the exercises for a few minutes (10-15) everyday to keep the anxiety feeling in my chest at bay, but after maybe two weeks or less I could get away with skipping more and more days and also doing less repetitions.
After a while I just stopped doing them, because I didn't have to anymore. I know I would still benefit greatly from doing breathing exercises regularly, but I have just gotten lazy since I don't have the anxiety problem anymore. Occasionally I'll feel some pressure in the chest (everyone gets anxious now and then and I know I have too much stress, both internal and external, in my life at the moment, so I don't consider this a relapse at all), but I know that if I just do a few of the techniques for maybe 5 minutes or less it will be fine. I'm so grateful!
I would recommend for people who are overwhelmed (like I was) to just start with the basic kit, and choose maybe just two or three exercises you feel drawn to and focus on them. You can always build on and mix it up later if you wish. If you have any questions, email Mike and ask, he's very helpful!
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