How should I practice controlled breathing?

When you are anxious, you tend to breathe shallowly, using your upper chest muscles. Your breathing can become extremely rapid and erratic, leading to hyperventilation. Controlled breathing is a technique that you can use to counteract this stress response and induce a state of calm within 3 to 5 minutes.

Try this simple technique, using the following steps:
  • Lie on your back, placing one hand over your heart and the other on your abdomen.
  • Inhale slowly and deeply through your nose for a count of 4.
  • Watch the hand on your abdomen rise as you fill your lungs with air, expanding your chest. (The hand over your heart should barely move, if at all.)
  • Hold your breath for a count of 4.
  • Exhale slowly through the mouth or nose for a count of 4.
  • Repeat for 10 full breaths. Work up to 2 or 3 sets of 10 breaths each.
Keep the following guidelines in mind while practicing controlled breathing:
  • Stop if you feel faint or dizzy.
  • Inhale slowly and deeply through the nose.
  • Exhale slowly through the mouth or nose.
  • Breathe in a smooth, regular pattern.
  • Concentrate while inhaling on filling the lower portion of the lungs.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.