Do you struggle with anxiety?
For years, I’ve struggled on and off with day-to-day anxiety. Sometimes I know where it’s coming from, and sometimes I have no idea.
I’ve done work to identify triggers, anchor thoughts, and intellectually reason through it, but the problem is anxiety is a physical sensation.
It’s a physical feeling, and we can’t reason a feeling...
...we just feel it. Right?
Does someone who gets nervous to ride rollercoasters actually think they are going to die?
Some might, but chances are, if they are in line to ride it, no—they're just scared. If someone tells them to “stop worrying, nothing bad is going to happen.” Does that take their fear away?
No. They still FEEL the sensations of the fear, worry and anxiety.
Those feelings are real, even if the worries aren’t intellectually sound.
We can’t control the physical feelings.
This is why intellectually reasoning through something, even as the pragmatist that I am, does not work in anxious situations.
When we feel anxious, we may hold our breath, or feel we can’t breathe. This is when it’s MOST important that we do so.
When we breathe, we take in oxygen, and breathe out carbon dioxide. When we hold our breath, our lungs start to extract the oxygen from the air inside them, replacing it with carbon dioxide.
Eventually, while holding our breath, the lungs will start to shrink as they run out of oxygen. Then, our bodies start to pull oxygen from our blood, causing blood pressure to rise.
So if we are anxious, and holding our breath, it very much affects us physically.
The good news: we can use our physical bodies to calm us down, too.
Breathing has helped me more than anything with my own anxiety. And it makes sense, right? Use one physical sensation to affect another.
This week I made a video sharing some breathing techniques for anxiety, and panicked moments. You can watch it here if you didn’t get a chance:
My personal favorite is the 4-7-8 breathing technique. You can watch it in the video or check it out on the PDF but I wanted to share it here in case you needed another push to try, because it really has made such a huge difference in my life.
The simple sequence is as follows:
- Inhale through your nose for 4 counts, hold the breath at the top for 7 counts, and exhale through your mouth for 8 counts.
- Repeat for 4 to 10 cycles. Take your time with these and be patient.
Go ahead and try one or two rounds now!
I can’t express how helpful this has been for me in a moment of panic or in the midst of anxiety—but practicing it every single day when I’m not panicked has made it so much easier to tap into in those unnerving moments.
I start my meditation each day with a few rounds of this breath, and it makes it so much easier to drop into when needed.
If you struggle with anxiety and haven’t ever tried breathing techniques (or even if you have!) I hope you’ll give these a try, and that they can help.
Remember, we’ve also got our Kickstart series going on on YouTube all month long! Here’s a recap of the other videos from this week, if you missed any!
Have a great weekend!
Light and love,