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Guest Article: Natural Remedies for Anxiety and Panic Attacks: Breathing

butterfly.jpgHere's an excellent article from my friend Nicola Quinn. I highly recommend her book Life Without Panic Attacks to anyone suffering from anxiety, from the slightest discomfort to full blown panic. Nicola knows what she's talking about, both from personal experience and from her research into what really works to give genuine relief from anxiety and panic attacks.

 

People who suffer from anxiety and panic attacks almost always breath shallowly, even when you tell them to take a deep breath you always find they do it from their chest. This not only gives the feeling of not getting enough air so you breath even quicker but also results in the characteristic tightness of the chest and heart area which can be so frightening.

Chest pain and anxiety is very scary and, presuming you have checked with your doctor to rule out a physical cause, can easily be stopped using deep abdominal breathing.

Put your hand on your chest now and take a deep breath, do you feel your hand moving?

Now put your hand on your abdomen, take another deep breath, slowly, and make a real effort to push that hand out as far as possible as you are doing so, now exhale and feel your hand moving back. That is abdominal breathing, how you should be breathing all the time and now I will tell you why.

Why Bad Breathing Causes Anxiety and Panic Attacks

Rapid shallow breathing causes hyperventilation and this happens when more carbon dioxide is breathed out than the body is able to manufacture. Symptoms include dizziness, tingling, tightness of the chest with rapid heartbeat, feelings of unreality and an inability to think clearly. Does that sound familiar?

Then in a rapid downward spiral these hideous feelings then make you breathe even quicker causing the symptoms to worsen even further. And there we have it, a classic anxiety and panic spiral which is very difficult to get out of and afterwards the exhaustion and feelings of being a limp rag combine with utter devastation and defeat and lead to ever increasing despair and phobias.

Breathing into a brown paper bag is a way of helping once the spiral has been embarked upon but a better way is to get into the habit of breathing correctly ALL the time so you never get to the point where you need to do that.

You may ask how can just breathing correctly help my anxiety and panic attacks?

Think about it, what you fear most are those awful feelings, the palpitations that come on for no reason, the dizziness, wobbliness, weak knees, feelings of unreality and not knowing what to do because you cannot even think straight, well if you knew how to prevent those from happening there would be nothing to fear, right?
Symptoms of Shallow Breathing and Hyperventilation

When you breathe shallowly and rapidly you lose too much carbon dioxide and your blood becomes too alkaline which causes havoc within your system as you can see from the the list below and your body also gets a huge hit of adrenaline to try and right this which adds a further burden. Recognize any of these?

* Dizziness
* Lightheadedness
* Vertigo
* Feeling faint
* Blurred vision
* Headaches
* Palpitations
* Missed heartbeats
* Chest pain and feelings of constriction
* Difficulty breathing
* Lump in the throat
* Tightness of the throat
* Dry mouth
* Twitching limbs
* Tingling in fingers and toes
* Numbness of extremities
* Prickly feeling over the face and arms
* Nausea and vomiting
* Stomach pain with gas
* Weakness and exhaustion
* Severe apprehension and nervousness
* Fear of dying and/or going mad
* Paranoia
* Feelings of unreality and being out of control


Symptoms of Anxiety and Panic Attacks

* Dizziness
* Lightheadedness
* Vertigo
* Feeling faint
* Blurred vision
* Headaches
* Palpitations
* Missed heartbeats
* Chest pain and feelings of constriction
* Difficulty breathing
* Lump in the throat
* Tightness of the throat
* Dry mouth
* Twitching limbs
* Tingling in fingers and toes
* Numbness of extremities
* Prickly feeling over the face and arms
* Nausea and vomiting
* Stomach pain with gas
* Weakness and exhaustion
* Severe apprehension and nervousness
* Fear of dying and/or going mad
* Paranoia
* Feelings of unreality and being out of control

Exactly the same symptoms, now do you see what I mean?

BREATHING PROPERLY FROM THE ABDOMEN PREVENTS ALL OF THOSE!

It’s been proposed that panic attacks are purely a hyperventilation phenomenon, now I don’t know about that, it may or may not be true, but it does make sense to me that if you know shallow and rapid breathing, when you get anxious, causes those things then having a way to prevent them happening will stop the cycle of fear of having the attacks.

So whatever triggers the feelings of anxiety or panic, it does not matter, the terrible physical feelings just will not happen!

How To Breathe Abdominally

You may have got exactly what I am talking about from the brief description above but if not and you are having problems try lying down and placing a book on your abdomen, the area between your ribs and your navel, and really try and push the book up as you breathe in.

Another way to see if what you are doing is right it to put your hands lightly on your lower ribs and watch your fingertips move apart at each in breath and move back as you breathe out.

Remember to always inhale through your nose though you may exhale through your nose or mouth, nose is better although if you do breath out through your mouth purse your lips slightly as if you are blowing out a candle, I found this helped me not to take the next breath through my mouth which is a bad habit I have and leads to overbreathing.

Of course it’s good to keep your shoulders and chest area as relaxed as possible but even in the beginning I found it difficult not to relax and additionally breathing abdominally completely stopped that nasty feeling I get in my throat when I breath from my chest rapidly.


How to Slow Your Breathing Right Down

Now, you are aiming for 6 to 10 breaths a minute, anxious people chest breath at a rate of between 20 and 30 breaths a minute so part of the practice is to substantially slow your breathing down.

Look at the second hand of a watch and breath in for 3 seconds and out for 3. You really want to aim for 4 seconds or even more but don’t push yourself to start with. You can also hold your breath for a few seconds before exhaling which has a really nice stabilizing effect and gives a real sense of control.

Have you noticed after a couple of deep abdominal breaths how steady your are feeling?


Retraining Your Breathing to Overcome Anxiety and Panic Attacks

The first thing you have to do is start watching your breathing throughout the day. Look out for times you notice your chest rising and falling as you breathe and also for the times your hold your breath while doing something. I noticed myself holding my breath the other day when I was painting and must have been thinking unconsciously that doing that would keep my hand steadier for drawing some lines. Big mistake! I ended up dizzy and disorientated and couldn’t work out why and of course my lines were wigglier than ever!

Whenever you catch yourself breathing from your chest make a real effort to take a couple of deep abdominal breaths. Also try and link this breathing to something you do regularly, like making a cup of tea and practice while the kettle boils.

To start with be gentle on yourself and just do a couple of breaths at a time, you don’t want to frighten yourself or get anxious as it is possible that until you are used to breathing this way naturally you may feel a little dizzy to begin with but this is only from the fresh oxygen and not hyperventilation which is really quite difficult if not impossible to do when abdominal breathing so don’t get too worried!

I have found even when the thought of something that makes me anxious kicks in taking two or three abdominal breaths really does the trick and that’s the key, doing it early enough in the cycle to prevent things getting any worse.

What you are aiming for is to learn deep relaxed slow abdominal breathing even when you are not thinking about it.

If you follow my advice by watching your breathing in the day and deliberately taking a couple of abdominal breaths when you notice you are chest breathing or holding your breath or starting to feel anxious, very soon you will be doing it quite naturally.

Checklist to Stop Anxiety and Panic Attacks

1. Practice abdominal breathing when you are feeling quite calm and relaxed so you know you are doing it correctly.

2. Slow your breaths down to 6 to 10 breaths a minute by using a watch.

3. Notice when you are shallow breathing or when you hold your breath and immediately take a couple of deep abdominal breaths.

4. When you start to feel anxious just remember to push your stomach out as you take a breath.

Above all don’t get discouraged and practice when you are feeling good and you will start feeling bad less and less often and brilliant in no time at all!

Guest Article by Nicola Quinn author of Life Without Panic Attacks

 

 

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Reader Comments (3)

I usually engage in at least 30 minutes of meditation each day before work. Work is one of my least favorite things to do, yet it is a necessity if we plan to live productive lives. I've had a number of acute medical issues in my lifetime and stress seemed to be at the root of each instance. Consider deep meditation, visualization and relaxation techniques the next time you have to engage in something that causes you anxiety. It has helped has helped me tremendously.

Freaking out about them while you are having one will make it worse. I'm saying to call (or talk) to someone because it takes your mind off of it while it's happening. While you are talking, lay down. It will go away sooner than it normally takes and it's not as scary. And remember, control your breathing while you are having one. That will slow the heart rate back to normal. In through the nose, out through the mouth. You CAN control it (panic attacks).

Thanks for your nice and well written post. Breathing Properly is really a remedy for a lot of diseases. That means, Oxygen is very important for our health to keep it good. Everybody should take at least 1 hour of fresh air. Also it will help him to remove the monotony of the whole day.

Sep 25, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterPanic Attacks

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