1. Belly breathing or diaphragmatic breathing
Shallow breathing can limit the diaphragm’s range of motion, which can make you feel short of breath or anxious. Shallow breathing can also push your nervous system into a “fight or flight” response, leaving you feeling tense and anxious.
Here’s how to practice diaphragmatic breathing, according to stress and insomnia specialist Julia Kogan:
- Place one hand on your stomach and the other hand on your chest. Imagine there is a balloon in your stomach that you fill (by expanding the stomach) and deflate (by gently contracting the abdominal muscles).
- Inhale through the nose for a slow count of two. You should feel your stomach rise as you inhale. The inhalation should be very calm and light. Imagine stuffing your nose with slow counts to two instead of taking it all in on the first count.
- Exhale even more slowly on a slow count of three. (Putting your lips can help.) As you do this, you should feel the balloon deflate in your stomach. The hand on your chest should remain mostly still.
“Once a person is comfortable with this exercise, they can increase the inhale time and exhale slowly,” says Kogan. “I recommend starting with a two-second inhale and a three-second exhale because it’s something anyone can do, even if they have various medical conditions that make breathing difficult.”
2. The buzzing breath
Sattar, whose book To breathe covers 33 breathing techniques, recommends the buzzing breath for anxiety.
“The buzzing breath, or bhramari pranayama, is a technique that combines breath and vibration to relieve tension in the body and mind,” she says. “The vibrations within this practice help recalibrate what is overactive in the body, while the breath itself activates the parasympathetic nervous system and strengthens the vagus nerve. It’s great exercise for any time of the day.”
Here’s how to practice the buzzing breath, according to Sattar:
- Sit or stand comfortably with a straight back.
- Inhale through the nose for at least five seconds.
- With your mouth closed, hum as if saying “hmmm” until you’re out of breath.
- Repeat five to seven times.
3. Lips pursed Breathing
When you are short of breath, pursed lip breathing helps bring more oxygen into your lungs and calms you down, giving you more control over your breathing.
Here’s how to practice pursed lip breathing, according to the American Lung Association:
- Breathe in through your nose.
- Exhale with pursed lips as if you were about to blow out a candle. Try to exhale longer than inhale.
- Repeat five to 10 times, stopping when you feel lightheaded.
4. 4-7-8 Breathing
A technique created by Andrew Weil MD, founder and director of the Andrew Weil Center for Integrative Medicine at the University of Arizona. This exercise can help calm your nervous system quickly. You can do this exercise sitting or lying down.
Here’s how to practice 4-7-8 breathing, according to Dr. Weil:
- Place one hand on your stomach and the other on your chest.
- Count to four as you breathe deeply and slowly from your belly.
- Hold your breath for a count of seven.
- Exhale for eight counts. Try to get all the air out of your lungs by the time you count to eight.
- Repeat three to seven times or until you feel calm.
- Take a few minutes to sit down and feel the sensations in your mind and body before returning to your day.
More home remedies for anxiety
There are many ways to help yourself through occasional anxiety attacks. In addition to meditation, tai chi, and yoga, Dr. Kennedy to go out into nature whenever possible.
Meanwhile, Kogan suggests planning stress-relieving activities to make sure they happen. “If something is not planned, the chances of it happening are usually small. So it is important that people make time for activities they enjoy and that relieve stress. This can include making plans with friends and participating in leisure activities,” she says.
Kogan also recommends externalizing via journaling. “Getting our thoughts out through a journal can be a very helpful way to reduce both stress and anxiety,” she says. “It helps the mind process stressful thoughts in an organized way, leading to less stress and anxiety.”
Exercise is one of the best things we can do for physical and emotional well-being — and especially for managing stress and anxiety, adds Dr. Kogan, who also says improving sleep is another important way to keep occasional anxiety at bay.