In this post you will learn how to use the coping skill of deep breathing. Deep breathing is really helpful; it actually has been shown to counteract the body’s fight, flight, or freeze response. This response gets activated when we sense danger. The resulting rush of adrenaline helps people protect themselves in life threatening situations. But when people have anxiety the fight, flight, or freeze response can go haywire and activate when danger isn’t present. Deep breathing is like an off switch for this response.
How to Practice Deep Breathing
It is important to breath more intentionally and slowly while deep breathing. People tend to find it most helpful to breath in through their nose and out through their mouth. It should take 5 or more seconds for each in and out breath. If you can hear the air moving in or out while breathing you may be breathing too quickly.
In addition to breathing slowly and intentionally, its best to breath deeply. You know you are breathing deeply when your stomach moves up and down more than your chest. This type of breathing mimics the breathing pattern we tend to have while we sleep and further helps us relax. It can be helpful when starting out to place one hand on your stomach and the other on your chest. If the hand on your stomach is moving up and down more than the one on your chest you are doing good.
To summarize, deep breathing involves breathing intentionally, slowly, and deeply. Typically, 5 minutes is a good length of time to practice deep breathing but many notice some reduction in anxiety with shorter periods of practice as well. And there you have it, that is deep breathing! I hope you find it relaxing.
- Bill McCadden, MSW, LCSW