Yes, controlled breathing helps for anxiety attacks. When you have an anxiety attack, also known as a panic attack, you may experience shortness of breath, chest pain, dizziness, numbness and tingling in your arms and legs, and feeling like you are having a heart attack or even an asthma attack. Once you have figured out you indeed have anxiety or panic attacks, then you can start mastering your anxiety by looking at your breathing patterns.
When an anxiety attacks occurs, you may feel short of breath, to the point that you are gasping for air, and the thoughts in your head tell you that you may die from asphyxiation or a heart attack. At this moment, you should immediately try to refocus on an object that is directly in front of you, so that you are not so focused on your catastrophic, unhelpful, maladaptive thoughts which only serve to make your anxiety worse. You may even try to get help from another person and refocus on that person.
Next, after your focus is shifted to an object and away from your unhelpful and negative thoughts, you can attempt to slow your breathing patterns and breathe deeply, from your stomach, called diaphragmatic breathing. This serves to eliminate the shallow, rapid breathing from your chest that does not fill your lungs with oxygen. Breathe in deeply with your stomach, count to 10, and then exhale for 10 more counts…repeat. Breathe in through your nose, and breathe out through your mouth. Breathe with expanding your stomach, and do not expand your chest…this will get your diaphragm to move the air into your lungs. Put one hand on your chest, and the other on your stomach. Only the hand on your stomach should move, and the hand on your chest should be stationary. Soon, you will find your breathing will regulate, as you fill your lungs with oxygen through diaphragmatic breathing, rather than chest breathing. Chest breathing, where you expand your chest, does not pull in the air into your lungs, as it collapses your diaphragm. You want to expand your diaphragm, and hence, expand your lungs to be filled with oxygen. When you are breathing naturally, without even thinking about it, you are doing diaphragmatic breathing. So natural breathing is diaphragmatic breathing, which is healthy…you just have to unlearn bad habits, like chest breathing. Watch this video on how to perform diaphragmatic breathing.
The steps Jenny follows to breathe.
Try to make your environment as comfortable as possible. Turn off the TV, radio, your phone, anything that might distract you. Sit in a comfortable chair. Place both feet on the floor. Then when you are comfortable, close your eyes and just breathe normally. You don’t to take in deep breaths, just normal breaths.
As you continue to breathe, breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth, just taking normal breaths. Continue to breathe normally. Place one hand on your chest and one hand on your belly. Now just notice your hands moving with your breath.
As you continue your breathing, pay attention to your hands. Is your chest hand moving more than the hand on your stomach or is it moving at all? If your chest hand is moving, it means that you are breathing in your chest. This is a shallower form of breathing. Try to breathe so that your chest hand does not move and your belly hand does move.
For a couple of breaths, exaggerate the pushing out of your belly with your breath so that you can really feel the air expand your diaphragm. Continue to breathe with your belly, making sure the hand on your belly is moving. Inhale through your nose and exhale through your mouth.
If you should start to feel lightheaded, just hold your breath for a second or two before you exhale. Continue to practice this breathing exercise whenever you have time. It only takes a few minutes a day.
This exercise is especially effective before you fall asleep at night. Regular practice of this exercise will help you to reduce your anxiety.