What You Can Do About Holding Breath Due to Anxiety

When someone tells you that they suffer from anxiety, one of the most common replies is, “We all do.” However, that is not really true. Suffering from anxiety is a lot different than just being anxious or nervous about something. Anxiety is an actual disorder that can affect just about every part of your life and if you don’t do something about it, it can actually really alter your health and your overall level of happiness.

Holding Breath Due to Anxiety

One thing that a lot of people who suffer from anxiety do without even realizing it is they find themselves holding their breath due to anxiety, especially when they are really suffering from anxiety. In some ways, this is a natural response to stress, since your body needs its resources in other places, but usually the kind of stress you are reacting with isn’t life-threatening in any way.

For example, if you were an animal in the jungle and you heard another animal coming your way, you would hold your breath without knowing it. Doing so would help to protect your safety, and it would also allow your body to get ready for “fight or flight”. This reaction is great in the jungle, but not so good when you are at work or with your family!

Should You Take a Deep Breath?

The most common expression that you will hear people say when they see that you are nervous or anxious is to “take a deep breath”. Yes, this is the answer, but if you aren’t really dedicated to that breath, it won’t do anything for you. There is an assumption that this magic deep breath will erase all of your fears and anxiety, yet we all know that isn’t true. In fact, there are few times in your place when a deep breath will solve any problem at all.

But, what you can do is learn to be more aware of your breathing, especially when you start to feel an anxiety attack coming on. Rather than relying on that one deep breath, paying closer attention to your breathing patterns can help you a lot.

Being Aware of Your Breathing

Unless you are a swimmer or a scuba diver, you probably aren’t too aware of your normal breathing patterns. Most of us don’t even pay attention to our own breathing and we tend to take it all for granted unless there is some kind of problem. When you are anxious, the most common aspect of your breathing that will change is that it will become more shallow and quicker. The results of this only make your anxiety worse as you will not be able to get the necessary amount of oxygen to your brain.

Therefore, instead of taking a deep breath or several deep breaths, which can actually make you a little dizzy, you should focus on the rate of your breathing and take more time with each inhale and exhale. One way of doing that is to breathe in (but not too deeply) and count to three as you do so. Pause for a second and then exhale slowly for the count of six.

There’s a good article I found that discusses some of these issues further. In the article The Breath, by Julie M. Simons, she says…

“We can go without food and water for a long period of time, but only minutes without the breath. Therefore, it is amazing how little attention we pay in normal life to the importance of breathing correctly. As babies and young children, we breathed deeply with our entire body. But many people have forgotten how to breathe properly and our sedentary work environments and lifestyles, coupled with the stress of busy lives, have conditioned most of us to fast, shallow breathing. This type of breathing restricts the breath to our upper chest and can ultimately undermine our health, decrease our vitality and compromise our ability to appropriately cope with mental, physical and emotional stress.” Read more … The Breath

What Is the Benefit Of Doing This?

When you are holding your breath due to anxiety, you are not letting your body get enough oxygen, which sends all of your organs into turmoil. Your heart rate goes up, your head gets light, and you start to panic. But, by making an effort to regulate your breaths and monitor both the inhalation and the exhalation, you will be back in control of your body. You will be giving your organs, especially your brain, the oxygen that it needs to work properly, and you will get your heart rate back on track.

In addition, instead of holding your breath, you will be focusing on something other than the actual problem that is causing your anxiety. So, instead of worrying about that big speech you have to give, or thinking about your financial problems, you will get a few minutes’ worth of peace being solely focused on your breathing. This is something that you can do anywhere and at any time and will always help to calm your sense of panic and anxiety.

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Here’s another good article that will give you more to consider, called Breath Holding.

“Many simple day to day actions can invite breath holding like bending to tie your shoe; fastening your bra; pulling open a stuck door; trimming your beard; bending to get something from the lower shelf of the refrigerator; reaching up to pick a piece of fruit from a tree branch, sitting at a computer for hours. It is not breath holding per se that is the problem. It is excessive breath holding.” Read more … Breath Holding.