4 Breathing Exercises To Relieve Anxiety

Anxiety, unfortunately, is very common. It can take a hold on you when you’re least expecting it.

Anxiety (or panic) attacks are one of the most visible symptoms, which is an overwhelming sense of doom, leading to an adrenaline rush along with heart pounding, a rise in blood pressure and an array of overwhelming symptoms, both physical and mental.

While it’s hard to control, there are a few things you can do to shorten them and make them slightly more manageable. And it all starts with your breath.

Anxiety is felt by the change in the autonomic nervous system, which is the nervous system responsible for the non-conscious bodily functions such as breathing, digestive processes, and your heartbeat.

There are two responses the autonomic nervous system does, the sympathetic (aka the flight or fight response) or the para-sympathetic (the rest and digest response).

Your sympathetic response is what happens if we’re, just say, being chased by a tiger (something our ancestors would have come up against). It causes an increase in muscle blood flow, tension, dilated pupils, accelerated blood pressure, which happens so that you can stay after from danger. While we don’t regularly come across tigers now, everything from meetings, emails, and commuting can trigger the same reaction.

So to help calm your anxiety, here are a few breathing techniques you can use day-to-day to help manage it and stop it from taking over your life.

Sleep Anxiety

1. Inhale through the nose for a count of four

2. Hold your breath for a count of six

3. Exhale through pursed lips for a count of eight

4. Repeat four times over.

Anxiety at work

This is called box breathing and is great for promoting calm when you’re still alert.

1. Inhale through your nose for a count of four

2. Hold your breath for a count of four

3. Repeat four times over. 

Anxiety during your commute

It can be hard controlling your anxiety when you’re on a packed commute, but this should help.

1. Sit as comfortably as you can with your spine straight, rest your hands on your lap

2. Close your eyes, and take a deep breath through your nose

3. Close your right nostril with your right thumb, and inhale through your left nostril slowly and steadily

4. Pause as you close your left nostril and open the right nostril

5. Release your breath slowly through the right nostril, pausing briefly at the end of the exhale

6. Inhale through your right nostril slowly and steadily

7. Pause as you then close your right nostril with and open the left one

8. Release your breath slowly through your left nostril

9. Repeat about 5-10 times over.

Anxiety about an upcoming event

If you're heading out somewhere and feeling anxious about it, give this one a go before you head out the door.

1. Sit up straight with your eyes closed and pop a gentle smile on

2. Place your index fingers in your ears

3. Inhale deep and steady through your nose

4. Exhale slow and controlled making a hmm-ing sounds

5. Repeat five times over.

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