The lack of control over one’s own body that a panic attack brings with it is not only uncomfortable in everyday life, but also extremely annoying. And while the problem is common these days (affecting around 2 to 3 percent of the population each year), in most cases it goes untreated. With just the right breathing, you can not only calm your body and mind faster when an attack has broken out, but also train and use a breathing exercise preventively in the event of a panic attack. We’ll show you two breathing techniques that can help you.
What is a panic attack anyway?
Panic attacks are uncomfortable attacks of anxiety that occur suddenly and are characterized by various physical reactions. These include shortness of breath, increased heart rate, sweating, and in some cases even chest pain. You hyperventilate. These phenomena can even aggravate the panic in those affected. The attack usually reaches its peak about 10 minutes after it started, after which it slowly subsides and disappears again. This usually takes about 30 minutes.
It is not uncommon, however, to feel tense and overwrought even after the anxiety attack. Temporary neck or back pain is also a possible consequence of the attack and can make the rest of the day difficult.
How does the breathing exercise help with panic attack?
During the attack itself, the correct breathing technique helps to focus on something other than the physical reactions or on the panic attack. This in turn helps you calm down faster and get through all the reactions more easily. So ensure relaxation with the right breathing exercises, you can avoid or at least reduce all the unpleasant phenomena. However, regularity is essential. The first noticeable effects are not to be expected immediately after a day or two.
The fact that the right breathing techniques are relaxing and beneficial is nothing new. For centuries they have been used for meditation and in yoga, tai chi and other Asian teachings and therapies. A 2011 article published in the Health Science Journal already mentioned some of the benefits of breathing properly. According to him, proper breathing exercise is beneficial for panic attacks, fatigue, anxiety, asthma in children and adults, stress, high blood pressure, aggressive behavior in adult men, and migraines.
Two breathing exercises for relaxation in case of panic, anxiety and stress
So if you want to make your life a little easier, you should use the right breathing exercise for panic attacks. In the following, we will explain two suitable breathing techniques to you. You can start practicing at any time. and "practice" is the keyword here, because even something as seemingly mundane as breathing takes practice. After all, you would like to replace automatic breathing with controlled one in the short term.
Breathing exercise for fear, panic, stress and sleep disorders – the right position
Read the instructions for the two breathing techniques carefully before attempting them for the first time. The correct lying or sitting position is also important:
- Sit in a comfortable chair. The legs are on the floor.
- Sit cross-legged on the floor.
- Lie on your back (on the floor, sofa or bed). The arms are stretched out parallel to the body and the palms are facing up.
Since dizziness can occur, especially after the first few times, the techniques should never be performed while standing. Otherwise, all positions with which you feel comfortable are allowed. Remove annoying objects such as heavy watches, tight belts, scarves or jewelry.
Breathing exercise for panic attacks or stress in 3 breaths
During the first breathing exercise against panic attack, you concentrate on three different areas of the body, which you fill or empty with air one after the other as you inhale and exhale. Before you begin, breathe as normal for a few minutes and track your breathing. This also allows you to calm down and prepare for the upcoming exercise. If you are looking for simple breathing exercises for relaxation, this is ideal.
In the breathing exercise against anxiety, you breathe in one breath first into the stomach, then into the lungs and finally into the throat. Repeat the exercise 5 to 10 times.
- Put your hands on your stomach. Then breathe slowly and calmly into your stomach. If you do it right, your belly should rise up along with your hands.
- As you continue to breathe, imagine the air entering your lungs. Put your hands on your lungs and inhale. The chest is now raised.
- Now place your hands on your collarbones and inhale into your throat.
- Hold your breath for a very short moment.
- Exhale gradually, moving backwards: first from the throat, then from the lungs, and finally from the stomach.
As soon as you have got used to the breathing exercise for relaxation, you no longer need to use your hands, but can leave them lying next to you as in the starting position. Also, do the exercise at least once a day (e.g. before or even when you go to sleep, when you want to rest, or before you get up). It is important that you get used to the steps well so that you can easily do the breathing exercise in the event of a panic attack or an anxiety attack.
The 4-7-8 breathing technique
The right breathing exercise for a panic attack can look quite different and be individual for each person. The numbers in this designation are only the number of seconds in the three breathing stages (inhale, hold your breath, exhale). However, the duration is not comfortable or physically feasible for everyone, so the lengths must be reduced. We will go into this in more detail below.
Breathing exercises to help you fall asleep
If you are looking for a breathing technique to fall asleep, this is also great. Many proponents of this breathing technique even claim that you can fall asleep just a minute after using it. It is a wonderful breathing exercise for relaxation, which is not only beneficial for panic attacks and anxiety attacks, but also has a calming effect in normal states. So you can fight against stress with it. This is how the exercise works:
- The tongue sits loosely in the mouth and its tip touches the gums just behind the upper front incisors.
- First, exhale and start the panic attack breathing exercise with an empty lungs.
- Breathe 4th For a long few seconds through the nose.
- Hold your breath for 7th Seconds on.
- Breathe 8th Seconds deep through the mouth. You shape it with your mouth "O". Exhaling can also be noisy.
Repeat this breathing exercise for panic attacks and regular sleep problems up to four times. According to supporters of this technique, the more frequently and regularly it is practiced, the more effective it becomes. The first few times you will find it difficult to find the right rhythm and breathe in deeply enough or breathe out slowly enough and divide the air correctly. With a little practice, however, you will quickly get used to the technique.
Alternative rhythm for breathing exercises in case of panic
However, if you cannot cope with the intervals even after repeated repetitions of the breathing exercise during a panic attack, you can shorten them. The important thing is not the duration of the stages, but the regularity of the execution. For example, the 2 seconds – 3.5 seconds – 4 seconds scheme is also suitable. Or instead of using seconds as a guide. Just count the time in your mind a little faster (see video).
This breathing technique is also taught by Dr. Andrew Weil, a doctor who also treats many celebrities. He is also the founder and director of the University of Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine. According to him, the technique shows perfect results when it comes to anxiety, insomnia, binge eating and aggressiveness.
Studies point out that the regular use of a breathing technique already has a positive effect on the heart rate after 6 weeks, which is influenced by the stress level, on the cognition and anxiety states.
items from the Health Science Journal – 2011