When you are feeling nervous, anxious, or stressed, your sympathetic nervous system is likely in control. This can cause hyperventilation, your breathing becomes more shallow and the breath cycle is shorter. Often this breathing pattern further exacerbates the anxiety or stress.
It is part of the physiologic response of your sympathetic nervous system. When the sympathetic nervous system is activated, the change in breathing to shorter more shallow breaths is an effort on your body's part to get oxygen to tissues faster as the heart pumps quicker. It's a beautifully coordinated response to stress and can be life saving in a true flight or fight scenario. But what happens when you enter a sympathetic state when there is no real reason to fight or flight...you get anxious, and your heart may beat faster and your breathing may become shallow...not ideal when you are trying to get through a work day or enjoy time with family. Good news is there is a breathing exercise you can use to help restore deeper breathing, regulate your nervous system and reduce anxiety. Try this out next time you are feeling those short quick breaths.
To restore balance of your parasympathetic nervous system breath with a
1 to 2 ratio of inhalation to exhalation. This works best with a pause after inhalation and exhalation. If you can, close your eyes and reduce your external stimulation. Inhale for a count of 4, pause and then exhale for a count of 8. Repeat this for as long as you'd like but at least a minute or two. You can do this entirely with nasal breathing or with nasal inhalation and open mouth exhalation. It can be helpful to draw your tongue down off the roof of your mouth and use mindfulness techniques to refocus on breathing if you find your thoughts drifting. Seems simple...and I like simple, especially because feeling anxious can make everything feel complicated, cumbersome and out of reach. Never forget all of the amazing healing tools you have at your disposal...breath work is always available to you!
I'm Amy! I'm an acupuncturist, herbalist,
registered nurse and expert in anxiety, stress relief, and women's health.
**All information and resources found on balancedstonewellness.com are based on the opinions, experience and research of the author unless otherwise noted. All information is intended to motivate readers to make their own nutrition and health decisions after consulting with their health care provider...even if that provider may be the author ;)