The importance of deep breathing

The importance of deep breathing

This post will hopefully guide you on how to deep breathe. Properly. Get all that good air in to your system and calm your self down. I mentioned in my CBT post that I had learnt how to breath my way out of panic attack, this is something that was learnt and practiced and has been so effective for me. Deep breathing isn't just used on the cusp of a panic attack, it can be carried out for just 5 mins a day to help your body function more effectively.

If you google any of the "anxiety cures" ( do it just for lols...) a lot of them will come up with breathing. This isn't your regular breathing, this is 'belly breathing'. I will quickly go over the science behind deep breathing, as I find that always helps me understand things. 

We want the body to be using its parasympathetic system, this controls your rest, relaxation and digest response. Often when stressed, nervous or anxious your body is controlled by your sympathetic system. This is helpful if we need to fight or flight, even if its a job interview, quick reflexes in the car, or genuinely running for your life. It is not helpful if you are sat on your bed watching Point Break and your body decides that it would be great to have a panic attack. Or when you wake up with the feeling of a concrete block on your chest, and no matter what you do you just can't get enough air in to your lungs. That is when we need to kick the parasympathetic system in to gear and the most simple way is exhaling longer than you inhale. As soon as you do that, the vagus nerve (from neck to diaphragm) sends a signal to your brain to switch from sympathetic to parasympathetic and when done effectively can reset your breathing, heart rate, lower blood pressure and all round zen. 

A lot of breathing exercises are used in yoga and meditation, and deep breathing I guess is a form of meditation but with less emphasis on clearing the mind. So how do you do it? 

Most of the guides will tell you breath in for 4 seconds, hold for 7, out for 8 (this is impossible when having a panic attack fyi). I have found that it is important to find what feels comfortable to you. For me, its 6 in, no hold, out for 9. The most important thing is that you are breathing so that your stomach inflates, your shoulders shouldn't move. You may find it easier to slow your outward breathe through pursed lips to start. It's best done somewhere comfy, in the beginning I used to do it for 1 minute before I got out of bed. Thought wise, I find the counting is enough to distract unwanted thoughts from coming in. 

For the purpose of this post I had a look at what apps were available (because there is an app for everything) and the best I found were Breath+ which is a visual aided breathing exercise, you can set how much you'd like to breath in and out for. But my favourite was Relax Lite. You can do breathing, or a guided meditation. The beginner breathing lets you choose your length, your level and what music you'd like. The reason I prefer this one is because once your breathing gets deeper you will naturally breath in for more and exhale for more. Whilst there is a sound aid, you can just listen to the music. This is the kind of thing that's hard to explain till you just do it. Both apps are free. 

How long you do this for is up to you. I will randomly stop and 'breath' throughout the day if I feel myself shallow breathing, or catching my breathe. Michael often asks if that was a big sigh but its me just correcting my breathing systems. 

Breathing and panic attacks. This is a helpful piece on hyperventilating, a common symptom of panic. When you feel a panic attack coming on (we all have different symptoms) if you can sit down and try your breathing. Count in your head with furious intent and don't let that counting and breathing stop until you feel calmer. I count on my fingers a cycle of 10, then continue with whatever I was trying to do. Trust your body's response. 

I hope that is of some help, there a thousands of youtube videos on guided deep breathing but I prefer just to do it myself to my own timings. Let me know if you enjoy either of those apps, I think I will definitely continue using Relax Lite.