When your anxiety is high, your body reacts by increasing your heart rate and blood pressure and quickening your breathing, which triggers a release of adrenalin. All of which makes your anxiety worse, which makes those symptoms worse, etc.
So, IF YOU CAN CONTROL YOUR BREATHING, YOU CAN CONTROL YOUR ANXIETY.
I’m going to give you an exercise that will help, but first I need to explain how to breathe in a very specific manner. Some call it ‘belly breathing’ others call it ‘diaphragmatic breathing.’ Place your hand on your stomach and make it expand as you take a deep breath, making sure your shoulders don’t lift and your chest doesn’t expand. It takes a little bit to find the right muscles to use, so take your time. (It’s much easier to breathe this way if you are lying down on your back.)
Once you’ve mastered the technique, you’re ready to do the exercise.
STEP ONE: Every night, when you go to bed, lie on your back and make sure you can breathe the way I’ve explained.
STEP TWO: Inhale very slowly. Make that one inhale last about 15 seconds.
STEP THREE: Hold the breath for a second or two.
STEP FOUR: Exhale the same way you inhaled—slowly, over the course of about 15 seconds.
STEP FIVE: Repeat the process for about two minutes.
STEP SIX: Go to sleep.
This technique is a tool that’s not likely to help your anxiety until you have practiced it for quite a while. But the more you practice, the better you’ll get at it.
Eventually, you’ll be in a situation in which you feel your anxiety rising. As soon as you do, immediately start using this breathing tool. Because you’ve practiced it so much, you can do it in practically any setting.
What you’ve done is you’ve trained your body to respond in a very specific way to this breathing. Therefore, by the time you take in the third inhale, your brain says, ‘Hmmm, we must be getting ready to go to sleep,’ and it floods your body with messages to relax. It lowers your heart rate and blood pressure. All those muscles that were beginning to tense up, simply unwind and relax.
I’ve both taught and used this technique for decades. I assure you, it will work.