Anxieties often start in the mind and fast-forward to the body, resulting in rapid breathing, or hyperventilation. When you hyperventilate, you take in more oxygen than you need. Your ratio of oxygen to carbon dioxide gets unbalanced, resulting in increased heart rate, tingling in your extremities, and feeling light-headed. Paradoxically, when you hyperventilate, you can feel like you’re not getting enough air, that you’re suffocating, so you try to breathe even faster. Some people in the midst of this kind of an anxiety-propelled cycle can pass out, which is your body’s way of trying to reestablish order.
When anxious, your breathing can cycle out of control. But you can learn how to take back control of your breathing. There are several types of these breathing techniques, but the one that seems the simplest to me is called foursquare breathing:
- Breathe in on a count of four.
- Hold your breath for a count of four.
- Exhale over a count of four.
- Wait and do not breathe in for a count of four.
The first time you use this technique, do it ten times, breathing slower and deeper each time.
Find Your Happy Place
This relaxation technique involves a quick mental getaway without ever leaving. Your mind goes elsewhere, only this time to a happy place, while your body stays put.
- Find a quiet place.
- Close your eyes and imagine a peaceful place, one where you feel comfortable.
- Breathe deeply and slowly.
- Imagine what this place looks like, feels like, smells like, and sounds like. Mentally explore this quiet place, using your imagination.
If you’re able, listen to relaxing music or natural sounds: waves on a beach, rain in a forest, wind blowing, or the sound of birds. Make sure to keep this volume turned down softly. Work toward staying in this relaxed state for about ten minutes.
You can do this either sitting up or lying down. Start with either the top of your head or the bottom of your feet, and tighten each muscle group as you travel either down or up your body. Hold the tension for three to five seconds; then release the tension and move to the next part of your body.
There aren’t any more “rules” for this. Try finding what works best for you. When you have gone through your entire body, remain relaxed for several minutes. You could even use your happy- place music or sounds and incorporate both of these together; engage in rolling relaxation and finish with a trip to your happy place.
Our days are awash in noise. Some anxious people use the white noise of life as a way to drown out their negative inner voices. Peace and quiet becomes anything but. One of the ways for you to learn to relax is to reacquaint yourself with the joy of quiet. Anxieties will want to come rushing into that void, but you must resist that temptation.
While enjoying the quiet, practice controlled breathing. Use the soft sounds of your breathing, along with the intervening times of quiet. If you find staying still difficult to accomplish, try taking a walk unplugged. Not only detach from anything that plugs into your ears, but also detach from what keeps plugging into your mind. Instead, fill your thoughts with the beauty around you, paying attention not to what you’re hearing but to what you’re seeing.