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Anxiety Management Technique: Diaphragmatic Breathing

One of the most powerful tools in the Anxiety Sister’s arsenal is breathing. The thing is, the type of breathing that helps anxiety is not necessarily intuitive and may require practice (remember Lamaze class?). So, it’s a good idea to rehearse a little when you are not spinning.


A very quick science lesson: two parts of your nervous system are called the Sympathetic Nervous System (SNS) and the Parasympathetic Nervous System (PNS). For simplicity’s sake, let’s call them Sam and Pat.


Sam’s job is to prep the body for physical activity, or what is commonly called “fight or flight.” This entails increasing heart rate, raising blood pressure, dilating pupils, freezing the digestive process and getting muscles ready to engage. When Sam has done her job, you feel “revved up,” restless, or anxious. Sam is the Energizer.


Pat, on the other hand, works to slow heart rate, lower blood pressure and relax muscles in order to “rest and digest.” Pat wants to conserve energy, while Sam wants to expend energy. Pat is the Calmer. If you are feeling anxious, you want to get Pat to do her thing (which forces Sam to chill out).


Perhaps the easiest and cheapest way to engage Pat is through breathing. Here’s why: when Sam is in charge, your respiration is fast and shallow, from the upper regions of your lungs. This rapid breathing can cause dizziness, nausea, tingling and other scary symptoms of panic. You can reverse these symptoms and call Pat into action by taking slow, deep rhythmic breaths from your lower lungs. This is called diaphragmatic breathing. Diaphragmatic breathing will slow your heart rate, lower your blood pressure, and relax your muscles.

Use the following animation to practice:



Let us know if this works for you…



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