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AnxietyManaging Anxiety

Managing Anxiety: here’s how breathwork plays a key role / here’s why breathwork is super important


Here’s a question for you: have you ever noticed how your breathing and heartbeat change when you workout? That’s because your breathing patterns are important indicators of the health of your body and mind. Your breathing tends to get faster because not only do the lungs require more oxygen, but the muscles require more blood circulation thanks to the physical exertion. Faster breathing ensures that the higher oxygen demand is met, while a faster heart rate ensures that the process of blood pumping is sped up.

Similarly, have you noticed that when you’re in a stressful situation, your heartbeat has a tendency to go up and your breathing gets faster too? Mental stress creates a physical response which mimics high intensity physical activity, thus releasing stress hormones sans the good endorphins.

When the physical body is in danger, our mind’s first response is either to fight or run for our lives – both of which are high intensity, stressful physical responses. This stress activates the ‘fight or flight’ mechanism in the subconscious mind as it senses danger, which in turn signals the body to breathe harder and the heart to pump more blood.

Historically speaking, our body’s natural primitive response when faced with danger required us to fight or run for the sake of survival. However, in the modern world where animals are no longer attacking us in the concrete jungles we live in, the body needs to be trained to react to stressors differently.

In a nutshell, anxiety is the body’s natural response to stress – both real life stressors, and also imagined stressors in the mind. Thus, anxiety can also be a stress response to a fear that may not be a current reality, while the effects of the imaged stressors can be as great as it would be when confronted by “real” so called danger. This happens because the mind does not know the difference between what is “real” or “not real”. If it’s in your mind, then it’s true for you.

So what do you do when you get triggered by stressors and you feel like the anxiety is building up? Here’s a three step breathing activity to manage the situation:

  1. Cut away from the thought or situation causing the anxiety (as much as possible) and instead bring your focus to your breathing.
  2. Deep inhalations and long slow exhalations through the mouth will quickly bring down your racing heartbeat. Use this breath-heartbeat connection to take charge of your body once again.
  3. Keep breathing deeply and consciously till you feel your heartbeat calming down. Once the heartbeat calms down the body will understand that it is no longer in danger and doesn’t need to “run away” or “fight” to save itself.

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