"Three simple steps to lower your experience of anxiety."
"By retraining your breathing patterns anxiety will weaken."
ARTICLE: ANXIETY & BREATHING PATTERNS
There is a correlation between the experience of anxiety and how you normally breathe throughout the day. If you tend to breathe through your mouth and in your upper chest, you will be more susceptible to experiencing anxiety. Many of the symptoms of anxiety will lower, simply by retraining your breathing patterns from stress upper chest breathing (hyperventilation), to diaphragmatic belly breathing.
HOW TO RETRAIN YOUR BREATHING
Below are some instructions that will help you to change the way that you breathe throughout the day. They are also followed by a guided meditation for retraining stress breathing patterns.
1: Learn How to Breathe in Your Belly
Start by lying on the floor. Use a pillow under your head and a rolled blanket under your knees if needed. Place both your palms just below your belly button, fingers touching in the middle, pressing slightly inwards.
Now gently raise your fingers by slowly extending the lower part of your abdomen upwards. Then slowly lower it back down again, letting the breath out. Do this a few times. Notice that when the lower part of your abdomen rises up, air is drawn in through your nose and as your lower abdomen falls, air is expelled out again.
2: Gently Slow Down Your Breathing Rate
Once you have found the rhythm of breathing in your lower belly, you can start to slow down the in-breath and out-breath. It is the slowness of the movement that increases the range and strength of your diaphragm muscle. Slowing of the out-breath also helps to re-balance low C02 levels associated with stress based chest hyperventilation which is responsible for anxiety symptoms.
THINGS TO WATCH OUT FOR
Effort: Be careful of over-effort or strain. Anxiety creates the desire to try to achieve, to control things within our life, including something as basic as breathing. If you notice any struggle or strain then stop what you are doing for a short while and allow yourself to relax before starting again.
Light Headedness: Because you are not used to breathing so deeply, you may experience some light-headedness due to the increased levels of C02 being absorbed. Whenever you experience this, stop the exercise and allow yourself to stay still. Generally after 10 seconds this feeling settles as C02 re-balances leaving you feeling calmer & more relaxed and you can resume your training. With regular practice this light-headed feeling gradually lessons.
***See your doctor if light-headedness persists***
Short Breaths: If breathing in your chest is normal for you then it will be natural for your diaphragm movement on your in-breath to be short. Because of the shortness of your diaphragm movement you may feel as if you are not getting enough air. If needed during the exercise you can take an extra breath.
Once the movement of your diaphragm slows down and lengthens, the feeling of needing more air will go away. By paying attention to the very beginning of the in-breath, starting it slowly, and paying attention to the very beginning of the out-breath, starting it slowly, your breathing will naturally deepen.
The most important part to focus on is learning to release the out-breath slowly. This is done to allow the depleted C02 levels caused by chest hyperventilation to re-balance and as a vehicle for deep mental relaxation during MIDL Softening Techniques.
Breathing Feels Tight: If when breathing in you feel a tightness of the breath within your lower chest, it is possible that you are breathing in from the top of your chest downwards in an attempt to push your diaphragm down into your belly. This will not work. The diaphragm is a dome and cannot be pushed down; it needs to be pulled.
It can be helpful to think of your diaphragm as an upside down plunger. When you pull the handle downward the plunger will suck in air, as you push it back up it expels it. To engage your diaphragm, think of pulling it downwards rather than pushing it. Placing your finger tips below your belly button and pressing in slightly to allow you to feel your lower abdomen move is helpful.
3: Learn to Take A Complete Breath
Once you have done 20 repetitions of breathing in your belly, the next stage is to learn to breathe from your belly up into your chest. To do this leave one palm below your belly button and place the other on the top of your chest, just below your collar bone.
Start the breath in your belly so that your lower hand begins to lift. Then bring it through your lower ribs to the top of your chest. It is helpful to push your ribs outwards a little to physically help your chest lift and open. Stress breathing lowers the flexibility of the rib cage through its lack of movement so you may need to help your chest expand in the beginning.
4: Allow Breathing to Happen Autonomously
At the end of the out-breath, allow the breath to fully go out then relax and wait. It is helpful at this stage to distract yourself from the breathing by becoming aware of the touch of your body on the floor to avoid control. Your brain will then fire a signal and take over the breathing for you. Your diaphragm will re-engage, moving freely and gently within your belly. Allow the breathing to happen autonomously in your belly with bare awareness of it.
Be careful of mental control at this time, it can be helpful to bring your attention away from the breathing and into the touch of your body on the floor.
At this stage allow your breathing to happen automatically, by itself. Notice and relax any desire to control your breathing. It is important to allow this natural, uncontrolled breathing to occur so that your brain starts to realise that this is what breathing is supposed to be like and also so that it can regulate your oxygen / carbon dioxide levels and turn off the chest, stress hyperventilation that causes the experience of anxiety.
When you have finished the meditation make a slow transition from laying down to sitting as you may in the beginning experience light headedness due to slowing your breathing rate. Sit still for 1 minute and observe the change within your mind, body and breathing.
MEDITATION INSTRUCTION SUMMARY
I recommend doing this meditation to retrain stress breathing patterns to lower the experience of anxiety 1 - 2 times per day over 3 - 4 weeks or until you notice that you naturally breathe in your belly and not in your chest.
First stage of retraining exercise
Second stage of retraining exercise
Third stage of retraining exercise
Exercise to retrain autonomous diaphragm breathing.
Longer version includes exercise for opening of rib cage.
Video instruction of how to retrain your breathing patterns from stress to diaphragm breathing.
"Re-engaging your diaphragm during the day breaks the stress cycle."
STRESS BREATHING PATTERNS IN DAILY LIFE
Changing your breathing patterns also has an affect on your daily life. Your sensitivity to how you are breathing during the day will increase, allowing you to notice every time stress breathing switches back on again.
It can be helpful at first, throughout the day, to ask your self one question:
“Where am I breathing now, is it in my chest or in my belly?”
If your breathing has moved up into your chest then the stress response has been switched on, you may be resisting something in your life. This is ok, it is habitual and happens automatically.
You can turn off this stress reaction by intentionally re-engaging your diaphragm in your belly. To re-engage natural, diaphragm breathing during the day, you simply place your palms just below your belly button, lightly pressing your finger tips inward. then by taking five, slow, gentle breaths in your lower belly, below your belly button, your diaphragm will re-engage in respiration.
After these three breaths you may feel a little light headed, this is normal when we re-engage the diaphragm, just allow the depleted C02 levels 10 seconds to re-balance and you will feel mental clarity and calmness return to you.
To completely remove the experience of stress & anxiety within your life, this is the game that you need to play. Throughout the day at first stress breathing patterns will come back again, you are dealing with habit. By noticing when you start stress breathing and bringing your breath from your chest by re-engaging your diaphragm you will start to decondition the habit of feeling stressed during the day. When this is supported by the breathing retraining meditation above, the experience of anxiety will gradually come to an end.
How to Re-Engage the Diaphragm:
How to Re-engage your diaphragm in daily life to break the stress cycle.
"Sitting still will teach your mind that right now, is safe."
Stillness meditation is the simple practice of sitting still and allowing the functions of your mind to slow down by not adding anything to them. Like a fire that can only survive as long as it is being fed fuel, the fire of your mind can only burn fiercely when fuel is being added to it. Through not adding to the activity of your mind it will naturally start to settle down and become still. As your skill in Stillness deepens you will notice a gradual lowering of defensiveness and anxiety within your daily life.
1: Create Your Posture for Stillness
For Stillness meditation it is necessary to create a balanced posture that you can maintain for the period of time without moving. This will give you the stability needed to allow your body to relax without fear of slumping forward. It is helpful in the beginning to un-round your shoulders by bringing them forward, raising them up, bringing them back and then dropping them down again. Also tucking your chin under slightly and extending the crown of your head towards the ceiling helps with balance. Once you have taken a balanced posture for your meditation, the first thing you do is to allow your eyelids to close slowly until they lightly touch.
2: Become Aware of Sounds
If there is any sound present become aware of it; allow the sound to start to anchor your attention. Notice your attention drawn out towards the sound. Focus on its flow, its changing nature. Allow the change within the sound to hold your attention present. This is always sad to hear, because the escape they are seeking is not found in more ‘doing’ but rather in learning how to ‘not do’, to actually be with what they are experiencing. Learning how to mentally rest, sit back and actually enjoy their life.
3: Warmth & Coolness
Gently bring awareness to the experience of warmth & coolness within your body as it sits. In a very general way, experience the sensations of warmth & coolness, keeping them gently in mind.
4: Touch of Your Hands
Within the experience of your posture start to include points of touch: The touch of your hands resting within each other. The touch of your body as it rests on the chair or floor and the touch of your feet. Keeping these points of touch gently in mind.
5: Experience Your Whole Body
As your mind settles, open your awareness to take in your whole body: warmth, coolness and touch. Your whole body just sitting here. Start to become aware of the general experience of heaviness that arises as your body starts to relax. Giving up all effort it becomes heavier, so heavy. Allow the chair or floor to take the full weight of your body. Allow your body to relax into this support.
6: Relaxing Your Forehead
Now gently bring awareness to your forehead and allow the muscles in your forehead to relax. Feel them becoming heavier, smoothing out. Experience the sense of ease as it arises.
7: Relaxing Your Eyelids
Allow the relaxation from your forehead to flow down into your eyelids and eyes. Relaxing your eyelids, feel the eyelids droop, becoming heavier. Allow them to become so heavy it feels like you’re falling asleep. Feel the mental relaxation arising from this.
8: Relaxing Your Cheeks & Jaw
Feel the relaxation flow down through your cheeks and into your jaw. Allow your jaw to open slightly. Feel the relaxation coming to the whole of your face, filling your face, becoming so relaxed.
9: Head, Shoulders & Upper Back
The relaxation starts to flow from your face around to the back of your head and neck. Slightly adjust your head if needed so that it feels balanced on your neck. Feel this relaxation flowing into your head and release any tension you feel, becoming so relaxed.
The relaxation starts to flow down your neck into your shoulders. Allow them to drop slightly. It then starts to fill your upper chest and upper back. Mentally feel the deep relaxation coming to your whole upper body. The sense of ease within your upper body.
10: Relaxing Your Arms & Hands
The relaxation flows down your arms into your hands. Relax your fingers. Allow your arms to hang loosely from your shoulders.
11: Chest, Belly & Breathing
Relax your chest & belly. Feel the breathing flowing freely within your body. The gentle flow of your breath. Allow your breathing to become calm. To become so relaxed that you can barely feel it moving at all. The sense of ease within your body deepens.
12: Relaxing Your Hips, Legs & Feet
Slightly release your hips and allow the relaxation to flow down your legs into your feet. You can use some gentle Softening breaths until your whole body feels deeply relaxed; so heavy.
13: Creating Your Meditation Object
This deep relaxation of your whole body will become your meditation object for your mind to access Stillness. Allow the chair or the floor to take the full weight of your body. Give up all effort within your body. Feel the effortlessness of it all, the effortlessness of not having to do anything. Feel this deep sense of ease fill every cell within your whole body. Allow the sense of ease to grow.
14: Experiencing Physical Relaxation
Bring full awareness to the deep relaxation and ease within your body and allow them to start to fill your mind. Abandon all mental effort at this stage; just allow. The deep relaxation and ease starts to fill your mind. Allow it to sink in. Feel your mind sinking deeper down, deeper as the sense of ease, of effortlessness fills it.
At this stage allow your mind to drift, to float around. Allow thoughts to come and go. You will drift in and out of thoughts. Gradually the thoughts will change from directed thinking with a subject, to random, floaty thoughts without meaning. Allow yourself to bounce in and out of this mental activity.
15: Experiencing Mental Relaxation
Start to become aware of the mental relaxation and ease arising within your mind. Allow this sense of ease to fill your mind until it becomes the experience of the awareness itself. You can use a few gentle Softening breaths as learnt earlier to relax any effort that arises within your mind; to soften any desire to do. Your task at this stage is to not add anything to the processes of your mind, no longer feeding the fire; just allowing the fire to burn itself out. Allowing the processes of your mind to cease and Stillness to arise.
Includes techniques for turning off the stress response
Sit still and allow your mind to rest
"Let me help you lower your experience of stress or anxiety"
When experiencing stress, breathing patterns change from relaxed belly breathing to upper chest stress breathing (hyperventilation) creating the experience of anxiety. Together we can change your breathing patterns to lower your experience of stress & anxiety within your life.
Personal breathing retraining sessions are held in my private hall at:
21 Serpentine Road, Gymea, NSW, Australia. (south of Sydney).
Stephen: 0466 531 023
Personal breathing retraining sessions are also held online using zoom. If you are overseas we can arrange a time that is suitable for you.
On our first meeting I will assess what you are currently experiencing and we will adjust the technique used dependent on this. For most people, the first beneficial action that gives most relief to the experience of anxiety is learning how to retrain habitual stress breathing patterns.
The second stage in removing anxiety is to learn how to correctly interrupt the habitual cycle of stress during your day to day activities. During this session I will teach you methods to quieten down negative thinking, interrupt your stress cycle and how to relax in difficult situations.
The third stage in breaking the anxiety cycle if to remove the triggers of anxiety such as painful emotion from memories. By applying the skills of interrupting the stress cycle that you learned in earlier sessions you can painlessly remove the emotional charge from memories thereby removing many of the triggers the survival part of your mind uses to trigger anxiety.
A 1 hour private session for lowering stress or anxiety within your life costs $70 AUD (approx $55 USD) which can be covered by direct deposit if you are in Australia or in PayPal if you are overseas.
**If you can not afford this I am happy for the session cost to be covered by donation, a gift of what you feel you can afford. The most important thing is that we share this time together.
When booking your session please include your, name, location (for timezone) plus some times that are suitable for you so that I compare to my diary for availability. A short explanation of what you are experiencing is also helpful.
Once we have an agreed meeting time, if meeting online, I will send you a zoom link for the session and some recommendations to make your session beneficial and comfortable.