Are you a good breather or a not so good breather? Most people don’t ever give it much thought, however, apart from keeping us alive, the unconscious act of breathing can have many other functions when we become more conscious of that breath.
When people experience symptoms of anxiety and panic attack, their breathing becomes very shallow. You can see their upper chest moving in short, sharp rhythm. Their autonomic nervous system has switched into the sympathetic response (flight, freeze and sometimes fight).
Anxiety will also present with other symptoms such as:
• Palpitating heart (tightness in the chest)
• Sweaty palms
• Stomach discomfort (might have to find a toilet NOW)
• Tightness in the throat, neck and shoulders,
• Foggy brain (can’t think straight)
• Tingly skin
The autonomic nervous system is a control system that regulates the automatic body functions such as heart rate, breathing, digestion, physical and sexual arousal, and sweat/urination/defecation. It has two main components.
Sympathetic Nervous System (responsible for taking the body into stress): Stress doesn’t have to be a bad thing. The body goes into stress when we have to move quickly, jump to action, get out of danger, play sport etc. The Sympathetic system is responsible for flight, freeze, fight and will stimulate heart flow to send blood to muscles and major organs and decrease flow to the skin.
Parasympathetic Nervous System (responsible for rest and digest: When you are sleeping or resting in a chair, relaxing reading a book and chilling out, the parasympathetic response has been activated. Your heart rate has dropped. Blood pressure has reduced. Digestion is in action. Your mind and body are calm.
Why is correct breathing important?
Daily breathing exercises will strengthen your lungs, decrease your heart rate and boost your immune system. I recommend a simple 4,3,5 breathing exercise. Some people have their own numbered system, but this works for me.
Breathe in for the count of 4, hold for 3, and exhale for the count of 5. Repeat five times.
1. Place your palm on your upper stomach at the base of your rib cage. Underneath that spot is your diaphragm. That is the spot that you should be breathing into.
2. Now sitting comfortably with your back straight or even lying in the floor. Breathe in through your nose deeply into your diaphragm, for the count of 4. (your hand should move in rhythm with the breath).
3. Hold for the count of 3.
4. Exhale for the count of 5. We are slowing the breath, stretching the lungs and side ribs, and engaging the parasympathetic nervous system.
5. Repeat five times. If you get light headed don’t worry – that is normal.
At this point, your parasympathetic nervous system is operating. Apart from consciously forcing a lower heart rate, your digestion and metabolism are improving, your breathing has brought you a gentle calmness, and your brain is now releasing serotonin and dopamine, two neurotransmitters that allow us to relax.
That is why breathing is so important. It is not the fact that we breathe, it is how we breathe. Try it! You physically cannot have anxiety when you have engaged the parasympathetic nervous system.
Are you ready to put anxiety, PTSD and panic attacks into the past? Check out my 3-Session Anxiety Release program for $450 (visit www.cameronhypnotics.com.au for payment options). You might also want to check out the range of self-hypnosis MP3s on Spotify and iTunes by searching Cameron Hypnotics. Health Fund rebates apply where applicable.