“What can I do to feel better and reduce anxiety?”
This is a constant question that my clients ask me. They want concrete steps they can take to help them alleviate anxiety, depression, stress, and anger. My number one tip can help you reduce stress and anxiety today. What is it?
It’s deep breathing through mindfulness. Breathing is an amazing tool that allows anyone to feel better very quickly. Within a few minutes, clients can feel the relaxing transformation. It can be done anywhere, at any time, without others realizing that they are using a coping tool. Even better, breathing is free.
How does breathing mindfully help anxiety?
First, you’re telling your brain to relax. When we breathe quick short breaths (like we do when we are upset), we are telling our brain that something is wrong. If you’ve ever had the wind knocked out of you, you know the immediate sense of anxiety that follows. Deep breaths (like when we are relaxed or sleeping) tell the brain that everything is ok. The increased oxygen and slower breathing rate tells the brain that it can resume normal functioning.
Second, Mindful breathing also helps because it focuses our thoughts away from the bad thoughts. Instead of your brain focusing on the negative/anxious/depressing thought, your brain in now focused on your breathing and your body. This is one of the main concepts of mindfulness, which is very popular to help fight depression and anxiety.
Does mindful breathing really work?
Yes, it works very well and there is scientific evidence to back it up. Many scientific studies have concluded that practicing breathing mindfully can help people control their emotions and feel better. Click here to read a study.
Who should use this coping tool?
Anyone who wants to feel more relaxed and in control of their thoughts and emotions. Mindful breathing isn’t just for Buddhist monks and yoga teachers. My clients suffering from anxiety and depression regularly tell me that using mindful breathing techniques has helped them feel much better. Clients that have racing thoughts (or obsessive thoughts) also reap benefits from this coping tool. I use this coping skill on a daily basis and it always helps me feel better.
How do I do it?
There are loads of resources to help you learn the coping skill of Mindful Breathing. I recommend downloading the app “Headspace” as a starting place. The app is free to try for 10 days and gives you an introductory 10-day class to how to practice breathing and mindful mediation.
Another app that I recommend is “Insight Timer”. It has specific breathing guided meditations that work on specific symptoms, such an anxiety or depression.
UC Berkley has also created a good website (click here) that helps clients learn the basics of this great coping skill. The website includes a free 5 minute guided meditation that will walk you through the basics.
It feels awkward, is that normal?
Yes, it might feel a little weird at first, that is completely normal. Stepping outside your comfort zone is not always easy. Initially I was skeptical and found myself feeling a little uneasy. It felt like it wasn’t working. I opened my eyes and considered stopping initially. Just try to do your best, it will start feeling less awkward after a few attempts.
Keep practicing. The more you practice this coping skill, the more effective it becomes. Ideally, you’re trying it daily. If you interested in learning more about this specific coping technique and other ways to control your emotions, please contact Christopher John Counseling here.