I’ve found myself plagued by a new, not-so-great stress response over the past 6 months: I have trouble breathing.
I can’t seem to get enough air to come into my lungs. I always knew it was anxiety-related but I went to the Dr anyway, so I could stop worrying about it being something more serious.
I was told I’m as fit as a show pony. There’s nothing physically wrong with me to attribute it to which is surprising, considering one of my biggest addictions used to be smoking.
My lungs are good. My heart is A-OK. Everything is copacetic when it comes to my body.
Except for the fact that I can’t breathe.
I remember when I was younger (think early-20s, when I knew everything and had that youthful narcissistic glow) and people would say, “You know…the best thing for anxiety is to breathe.”
I wanted to scream at them. I wanted to tell them to fuck off. It seemed too obvious and simple. And at that point, life had proven to me that there was nothing simple about anything.
How could breathing stop this monster of anxiety that I had been medicated for since I was 15? It just didn’t seem to be in the realm of “Things That Are Possible.”
Long story short, I came to learn that the obvious was, in fact, the answer.
Although it’s not always as simple as just breathing in and out, coming back to your breath does calm you down when you start to spin out.
I’ve been blessed to have been introduced to some new ways to use breathing to transform anxiety over the past year, and I’m going to share them with you.
These breathing techniques directly address an anxious state and they work.
Breathing Technique Number 1 – I shared a video from Dr. Hew Len with my newsletter subscribers recently. He offers a healing meditation focused on connecting with the subconscious, or inner child. The video was recommended to me by my therapist and I found it to be amazing for not only healing subconscious disconnection but for the breathing technique towards the end (around the 12:50 mark.)
This technique is next level in dealing with breathing issues related to anxiety. It helps to disperse your breath, allowing you to feel your breath expand within your body. So often when we are anxious we feel like we don’t have enough air, and this exercise proves that we do, and alleviated my fears. It worked really well for me. Check out Dr. Hew Len’s breathing technique here.
Breathing Technique Number Two – Though I’m not contorting myself into unimaginable positions in a yoga studio every day, I do identify as a yogi. I do it every morning and take class as much as possible.
I strongly believe that incredible healing takes place on a yoga mat and that everyone can benefit from it, particularly the folks who say it’s not their kind of thing.
There is always something to learn about yourself in a yoga class. Even if the routine is somewhat similar to the last class you took, you still come out with a lesson about your body or mind.
Ujjayi breathe was one such lesson for me.
Pronounced Oo-jai, Ujjayi breathing is an ancient yogic technique associated with Hatha flow yoga. Praised for its ability to calm the mind and body and balance the respiratory system (to name a few), I can’t say enough good things about it: It works for anxiety, It’s free, It’s accessible any time of day, and it doesn’t require a prescription.
I’m not going to pretend to be an expert on how to do it, which is why I’ll tell you The Chopra center website has a really great article on the benefits of Ujjayi breathing and offers instructions on how to do it. You can check it out here. It’s something I would recommend to anyone who is struggling with anxiety.
I’d recommend both of the breathing techniques I’ve mentioned here to anyone and everyone. We all have stress that leads to anxiety, it just manifests in different ways and to varying degrees of intensity, depending on the person and their life experiences.
The health benefits associated with techniques like these far outweigh the side effects of feeling blockers society suggests we use. Because that’s all drinking, smoking, prescriptions, overeating, overspending, being judgemental, displacing our frustration by breaking shit or being jerks, does: keep us from facing how we truly feel.
The main take away for me when it comes to using breathing techniques for anxiety is that we have more power than we think we do.
What works for me may not work for you. Or perhaps it will one day, you’re just not ready to try it yet. I get that. I respect the need for someone to be ready to change – Everyone has to do things on their own time.
But I also know we are taught that the ability to process our anxiousness resides outside of ourselves, and that is simply not true.
Pharmaceutical companies market to our fears, telling us they can fix us, and our Doctor’s affirm that falsity when they write us prescriptions. Then we imprint our spirits with the belief that we are helpless when we turn to self-medicating with drugs and alcohol, as I wrote about in this post because the prescriptions don’t work.
In my case, the prescriptions I took contributed to my alcohol and drug abuse. I was so numb and void of feeling from being over-medicated that I chose to drink and do drugs in order to feel something.
I don’t want you to suffer the way I did, or continue to suffer the way you already are. So please consider that the answer to the question, “How do I deal with my anxiety?” is within you, and has been all along.
The answer, at least in part, resides in your breath, and the breathing techniques I’ve shared with you can help you find it.
I see you. You are not alone. You are loved.