When anxious, you tend to take rapid, shallow breaths from the chest. Chest breathing can result in increased heart rate, dizziness and muscle tension. During abdominal or diaphragmatic breathing, you instead take even deep breaths, which reduces the amount of work your body needs to do to breathe.
If you’re feeling breathless because of anxiety, try the following techniques to alleviate symptoms:
- Equal breathing—From a sitting or lying-down position, inhale for the same amount of time as you’re exhaling. Try using a four-second count.
- Mindful breathing—Focus on your breathing and bringing your mind’s attention to the present. Don’t let your mind drift to any concerns.
- Slow breathing—You normally take 10 to 20 breaths per minute, so strive to take four to 10 breaths per minute.
- Resonant breathing—Lie down and close your eyes. Gently breathe in through your nose for six seconds and exhale for six seconds.
If these types of breathing feel challenging, try again in a day or so, or build up the time gradually. If your anxiety persists or gets worse, contact your doctor.