3. Practice deep breathing for 20 seconds at a time.
When we’re feeling anxious, we take quick, shallow breaths from our upper lungs. When we are relaxed, on the other hand, we tend to take slow, deep breaths from our lower lungs. Normal breathing maintains a balance between the oxygen we inhale and the carbon dioxide we breathe out. Rapid breathing in the absence of physical exertion—such as quick, shallow breathing due to anxiety—can lead to hyperventilation. When we hyperventilate, we exhale more than we inhale, so our bodies release too much carbon dioxide. As carbon dioxide levels decrease, the blood vessels that supply oxygen to the brain start to narrow. In severe cases, this can lead to fainting.
Anxiety and panic attacks are among the most common causes of hyperventilation.
Hyperventilation causes many of the unpleasant physical symptoms that accompany a panic attack. Hyperventilating can cause a rapid heart rate, lightheadedness, dizziness, a choking sensation, difficulty breathing, trouble swallowing, heartburn or chest pain, shaking, blurred vision, uncomfortable numb or tingling sensations, muscle spasms or muscle pain, nausea, weakness, fatigue, confusion, and an inability to concentrate. When you have a panic attack, you probably feel as though you completely lack control over the situation. However, you have more power than you realize, even in stressful circumstances. Making a conscious effort to breathe deeply when you’re starting to feel anxious can help prevent the unnerving symptoms of hyperventilation. Deep breathing can help prevent a panic attack before it starts or ease the symptoms while you’re suffering. Practicing deep breathing for 20 seconds at a time is a great way to make healthy breathing a habit.