I love how deep breathing helps anxiety! When I feel stressed or nervous I automatically utilize my breath to calm and ground me. I use it when I get shots (which I HATE), I use it when I am feeling frustrate with my kids, I use it before bed to get me relaxed. It doesn’t cost anything, I can do it anywhere, and it works!
In my practice most people who have difficulties with anxiety have heard that deep breathing can help them feel better when they are feeling anxious. In my experience most people who practice deep breathing do it incorrectly so they don’t reap the benefits. I have had countless people in my office who have heard that deep breathing doesn’t work for them, but when taught how to deep breathe correctly they share that maybe it does work after all.
Deep breathing is not just for people who struggle with anxiety either, but it is helpful for all people. Regardless of whether you consider yourself to be someone who has difficulty with anxiety you can practice square breathing when you need to relax. This strategy is also perfect to teach kids, so if you have children help them learn to breathe correctly too! It is called square breathing because there are four steps to the breath just like there are four sides to a square. Here are the four steps so you can get started:
- Count to three as you slowly breathe in through your nose. When breathing in you should notice your belly move out, not your chest. If you notice your chest move out your breath is too shallow.
- Now that you have inhaled, hold your breath for 3 seconds.
- After holding your breath for three seconds, slowly exhale taking 3 seconds to do so.
- The final step in the process is to hold “empty” for three seconds.
I encourage you to practice deep breathing for five minutes a day, even if you are not feeling anxious. Make it a habit, just like brushing your teeth. If you practice deep breathing daily your cortisol levels (the stress hormone) will be lower, making it easier for you to handle stressful situations as they come up in your life. When you are feeling stressed or anxious, in the moment you can practice your deep breathing to calm your system…it works like a charm!
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Written By Dr. Steffanie Stecker
Dr. Steffanie Stecker a licensed psychologist and the owner and clinical director of Mountain Vista Psychology, PLLC.
In addition, she is a board certified neurotherapist (BCN E5669) and board certified in QEEG (QEEG-D). Less than 100 people world wide are board certified in QEEG, which indicates competency in reading QEEGs and choosing neurofeedback protocols. Dr. Stecker is passionate about brain based effective therapy and creating a safe relationship for her clients to create change. She loves what she gets to do each day!