Anxiety is everybody’s best friend. We don’t really greet him, yet he walks right in and makes himself home. He has long since claimed your mind as his rightful property and refuses to budge regardless of what you do. I totally understand, I have one of those annoying sticky things bothering me now and then too. It does get quite overwhelming at times doesn’t it? Probably interferes with your daily routine, clarity in thinking, and even keeps you from finding solace in sleep with haunting nightmare?

[Read my article – A for Anxiety]

anxietyWell, there are many ways to deal with it. I’m sure you must have tried some. Here’s one simple and effective technique that consumes no time at all, and helps you get rid of him every time you feel suffocated by his presence. JUST BREATHE.

“What is she saying? Breathe? I wouldn’t be alive if I wasn’t breathing, and she says breathing can rid anxiety!”

We do not breathe right. Yes. There certainly is a certain method to breathe, and those who practice Yoga will be well aware of it. The right way to breathe is to inhale slowly letting you stomach expand as you feel the air fill your lungs, and exhale while you feel your stomach relax and the air being expelled out of your lungs.

Recently I came across a book, The Healing Power of Breath, by Richard P. Brown, M.D. and Patricia L. Gerbarg, M.D., in which they explain how breath is the only automatic body function that we can voluntarily control. In this book, they write:

“By voluntarily changing the rate, depth, and pattern of breathing, we can change the messages being sent from the body’s respiratory system to the brain. In this way, breathing techniques provide a portal to the autonomic communication network through which we can, by changing our breathing patterns, send specific messages to the brain using the language of the body, a language the brain understands and to which it responds. Messages from the respiratory system have rapid, powerful effects on major brain centers involved in thought, emotion, and behavior.”

They also illustrate many breathing techniques that help to control stress and anxiety built on three basic approaches that include coherent breathing, resistance breathing and breath moving. I have tried these techniques and they are immensely effective. Here’s a short explanation of each approach. I’m not going into the science, rather keeping it simple with the “how-to”. If you’d like to know more, order their book online from Flipkart.

Coherent Breathing (5 Breaths Per Minute)

1. Sit in a comfortable position on a chair.
2. Rest your back well and close your eyes.
3. Focus on your breath and allow it to normalize.
4. Now, deeply inhale as you count to five. Allow the air to fill your lungs. Feel its temperature and let it spread as you take it in.
5. Exhale slowly as you count to five.

Ideally, you have to breathe 5 times in a minute. This would mean a six second inhalation and six second exhalation.
Do this for about five minutes to kill that menace.

Resistance breathing

This one is a little tricky if you go by the methods prescribed in the book. However, you can use any comfortable technique that helps you create resistance while breathing. Ideally instructors suggest pursing your lips or pinching your nose for the effect. You can even try chanting mantras or Aum while practicing this technique.

The rules are the same.

1. Sit comfortably in a relaxed position on a chair with your back well rested.
2. Close your eyes, focus on your breath and allow it to normalize.
3. Inhale deeply as you count to five.
4. Purse your lips or pinch your nose slightly as you slowly exhale (again counting to five).
5. Repeat for a few minutes.

Breath Moving

This is basically visualization of your breath. The deal remains the same. Sit comfortably, relax, close your eyes and focus on your breath. Here’s how to do the visualization part from the book:

“As you breathe in, imagine you are moving your breath to the top of your head.
As you breathe out, imagine you are moving your breath to the base of your spine, your perineum, your sit bones.
Each time you breathe in, move the breath to the top of the head.
Each time you breathe out, move the breath to the base of the spine.
Breathe in this circuit for ten cycles”

Try these out and do let me know how it works for you. You may not be able to evict anxiety out of your mind palace forever at first, but practicing it regularly can certainly make him disappear.

For more on the same topic, click here.