Controlling Your Breathing for Five Minutes a Day
Figuring out how to breathe with your diaphragm is a key skill in overcoming anxiety. The diaphragm is the muscle that lies between your abdominal cavity and your lung cavity. Try this exercise to start breathing like a baby again. You may want to lie down, or you can do this while sitting if you have a large comfortable chair in which you can stretch out.
Check your body for tension. Notice whether certain muscles feel tight or whether your breathing is shallow and rapid. See whether you’re clenching your teeth or whether you have other distressing feelings. You may rate your tension on a scale from 1 to 10, with 1 representing complete relaxation and 10 meaning total tension.
Place a hand on your stomach.
Breathe in slowly through your nose and fill the lower part of your lungs. You’ll know you’re doing this correctly if your hand rises from your abdomen.
Pause and hold your breath for a moment.
Exhale slowly. As the air goes out, imagine that your entire body is deflating like a balloon and let it go limp.
Pause briefly again.
Inhale the same way slowly through your nose to a slow count of four. Check to see that your hand rises from your abdomen. Your chest should move only slightly and in tandem with your stomach.
Pause and hold your breath briefly.
Exhale to a slow count of six. At first, if you find that hard to do, use a count of four. Later, you’ll find that slowing down to a count of six is easier.
Continue breathing in and out in this fashion for five minutes.
Check your body again for tension and rate that tension on a scale of 1 to 10.
Try this exercise once a day for five minutes. You’ll find it relaxing, and it won’t add stress to your day by taking up much of your valuable time. Try it for five minutes for ten days in a row. After you do that, try noticing your breathing at various times during your regular routine. You’ll quickly see whether you’re breathing through the diaphragm, or through the upper chest like so many people do. Slowly but surely, abdominal breathing can become a new habit that decreases your stress.