3 Breathing Techniques To Use When You’re Freaking Out

In today’s modern world there are thousands, maybe millions, of articles, blog posts or books dedicated to stress-management. A lot of them deal with the root cause of stress, or look at a more holistic, bigger picture view of how to reduce the stress in your life. These are great, and if you struggle with a stressful personal or professional life then I definitely recommend looking further into how to reduce the pressure.

But what about in that moment when you’re completely freaking out? In that moment when life seems against you, everything is going wrong and the pressure is mounting? Maybe your to-do list is so long you can’t even begin to think about where to start? Well here is where I can help, right now.

People tend to think of yoga, meditation and breathing as separate things. In actual fact, they are all interlinked; each an integral part of the other and at the heart of these tools which can help us deal with the daily stresses of a busy life, is the breath.

We take on average 17,000-30,000 breaths a day, but how many of those do you notice? How many do you stop to feel? Chances are the answer is: very few.

Pranayama is one of the foundation blocks of a yoga practice and it translates to mean ‘breath – control’. For thousands of years breath control has been universally known as a simple and highly affective form of relaxation, pain management and as a tool for reducing anxiety (think about birth breathing techniques, or the simple image of breathing-into-a-paper-bag). But, I know, it’s easier said than done.

How can you focus on the breath when you’re in a panic? Or you’ve got so many thoughts your mind is swirling? Or you simply don’t.have.time?

Here are my top three breathing techniques you can try. All of these can be used when you’re freaking out, but equally, practised every day as part of a regular meditation, they can help you to ensure that the freak-out actually doesn’t come all that often.

For more breathing techniques, download my FREE Introduction to Meditation eBook today!

Fancy kick-starting your meditation practice? Listen to my 10-minute guided meditation now

Breathing techniques for anxiety

1.      Breath counting

This is my favourite breathing technique to use when you find it too abstract to ‘focus on the breath’. If you’ve never meditated before, or your thoughts are all a clutter and your brain is being loud then it can be incredibly difficult to not get distracted while simply breathing.

Instead, this technique keeps your mind occupied on something simple and easy to follow, so it doesn’t have time to spiral into anxiety.

Method: sit up straight with your feet flat on the floor, relax the shoulders and rest the hands on the knees or the thighs. Take a deep breath in through the nose and then exhale softly through the nose and close your eyes. Start to notice your natural breathing rhythm. After a few breaths try to count how long it takes you to take one natural breath in, and then how long it takes to take a natural breath out. See if you can match the length of the inhale and the exhale (i.e. if it takes you three counts to breath in but 4 counts to breathe out, try to breath in for 4 counts and out for 4 counts).

Continue to breathe in and out to the counts until you feel calmer or try lengthening the inhale and exhale for 1 count at a time, seeing how long you can make the breaths (i.e. if you start by breathing in and out for 4 counts each, try a few breaths breathing in and out for 5 counts each, and then take it up to 6 and so on). Don’t force the breath in and out, just go to a point that feels natural and smooth and breathe in and out, counting as you go, until you feel more relaxed.

For more breathing techniques, download my FREE Introduction to Meditation eBook today!

Fancy kick-starting your meditation practice? Listen to my 10-minute guided meditation now

 

2.      Container visualisation

If you’re quite a visual person this technique is really nice. It also helps if you’re feeling depleted, lacking in energy, or weighed down by whatever situation you find yourself in.

Method: sit up straight with your feet flat on the floor, relax the shoulders and rest the hands on the knees or the thighs. Take a deep breath in through the nose and then exhale softly through the nose and close your eyes. Start to notice your natural breathing rhythm. Once you’re settled, start imaging your torso as an empty container and the breath you breathe in as liquid. As you inhale, visualise the container filling up from the bottom to top with the breath (liquid) and as you exhale imagine your container emptying from top down to the bottom, don’t stop until all the liquid is emptied. Continue this until you feel more relaxed.

To make the technique more powerful you can imagine the torso as a dirty container, and with every inhale you breathe in clean liquid, and every exhale you breathe out the dirty liquid, continuing until the whole container is full of clean and fresh and new liquid.

For more breathing techniques, download my FREE Introduction to Meditation eBook today!

Fancy kick-starting your meditation practice? Listen to my 10-minute guided meditation now

 

3.      Head rush technique

OK so that’s not the official name for this, but it always gives me a head rush and leaves my brain feeling light and more spacious. It’s also perfect if you’re really pressed for time and just need to take a few seconds’ breath.

Method: take a deep, long, breath in through the nose, followed by 20 short, sharp breaths out through the mouth making a ‘ssshh’ noise. After the 20 breaths out, take another long, deep, breath in through the nose and gently hold that breath in for as long as you can, until you need to breath again. Notice how long you can go without breathing (without straining!). When you need to breathe, simply exhale gently through the nose and notice how you feel.

For more breathing techniques, download my FREE Introduction to Meditation eBook today!

Fancy kick-starting your meditation practice? Listen to my 10-minute guided meditation now