Conscious of breathing anxiety

How to Cope With Anxiety Breathing Difficulties

Anxiety is self-sustaining. Anxiety causes a variety of physical symptoms that can be incredibly frightening. These, in turn, cause more anxiety, which ultimately leads to more physical symptoms.

It's a dreadful cycle, and a symptom that often precipitates severe anxiety is difficulty breathing. Trouble breathing can be due to a heart attack, heart failure, lung disorders and more, but breathing difficulty may also be due to anxiety - especially if severe.

When to Call a Doctor

Only a doctor can assess whether your breathing problems are the result of anxiety or a heart condition. There is no harm at all to see a doctor and be certain your heart is in good shape, especially if this is the first time that you've ever had breathing trouble.

Factors that Doctors Use to Determine Anxiety or Heart-Related Breathing Problems

Remember, only a doctor can diagnose your condition, and even if you strongly believe it's anxiety, a simple visit can be very calming to quell any persistent worries or concerns.

When you go to the doctor, the following will be assessed:

  • Your Medical History - Is there anything in your medical history to believe you have a heart or lung condition?
  • Your Age - Young men and women with no previous heart issues are unlikely to have any serious heart problems.
  • Your Heart - Your doctor will also listen to your heart and lungs. Listening alone is almost always enough to tell if there is a heart issue.
  • Your Family History - Heart and lung conditions tend to run in families. Your doctor may also you about your family history in order to see if there are any indications of potential issues.
  • Your Examination - Your doctor may also give you a physical exam to see if there are any signs of both breathing problems and the effects those problems may cause.

If your doctor has any concerns or simply wants to rule out any other issues, they may also request a blood panel or an X-ray. In almost every case, if these come up as negative, you are likely to have an anxiety issue. Those with anxiety may worry that their doctors missed something even after all of those tests, but that is very unlikely.

Causes of Breathing Difficulty From Anxiety

Of course, when you have anxiety, your mind often tricks you into believing that you must be one of those "exceedingly rare" cases. After all, you know you have trouble getting a deep breath, and anxiety can't explain that, right?

But the reality is that trouble breathing from anxiety is very common. In fact, it's one of the most common symptoms of anxiety attacks, and one that many people accidentally make worse on their own.

Trouble breathing is almost always caused by hyperventilation - an issue that many people don't fully understand.

How Hyperventilation Affects Breathing

When you aren't getting a full breath, it may feel like you're not getting enough oxygen, so you try to take deeper breaths. But you'd be surprised to learn that that feeling isn't caused by not getting enough of a breath - it's actually caused by getting too much oxygen.

The act of getting too much oxygen can make your body feels like it needs more air, causing you to try to breathe in deeper. This never works, however, because the problem is caused by an overabundance of oxygen and not enough CO2. It may cause your hyperventilation to get worse, causing other symptoms like:

  • Lightheadedness
  • Chest Pain
  • Leg/Extremity Weakness
  • Rapid Heartbeat

This is actually one of the main reasons that anxiety attacks occur. During an anxiety attack, the individual often feels like they aren't getting enough air so they try to breathe deeper. This causes the body to be depleted of CO2, which can make you feel as though you're going through a serious health problem - like a heart attack - causing a surge of anxiety that may lead to panic and numerous physical symptoms.

Hyperventilation itself is also often misunderstood. It can occur for several reasons, including:

  • Fast Breathing - Hyperventilation during periods of intense anxiety may occur simply because the person is breathing too quickly. They're expelling too much CO2 while letting in too much oxygen, throwing off their body's balance.
  • Conscious Breathing - Another common cause is conscious breathing. Normal breathing is subconscious - your body takes in exactly as much air as it needs to function because it knows exactly how much it needs. Conscious breathing is when you think about your breathing and control how deep your breaths are. Often you think you need to take deeper breaths than you do, and this brings in more oxygen than you need. It's not uncommon to respond by yawning or trying to take even deeper breaths only to make the situation worse.
  • Poor Breathing Habits - Finally, while its direct cause isn't well understood, anxiety does appear to cause poor breathing habits. The most notable of which is trying to breathe in with your chest movement rather than your abdominal movement, or trying to feel your ribs expand (like with a yawn). This type of breathing is inefficient and may trigger hyperventilation.

It's also possible that coughing or sitting awkwardly can lead to over-breathing, and these may also trigger the symptoms of hyperventilation.

Other Causes of Breathing Difficulty

Anxiety may also cause perceived breathing difficulty, simply because any time you're feeling anxious you may start breathing faster and feel that something is "wrong" even when it isn't. This is especially true of those that feel anxiety when their chest doesn't expand during a yawn.

Perceived breathing problems may also lead to real breathing problems if the person responds by trying to breathe in too much air.

How to Calm the Symptoms and Get a Deep Breath

Anytime you feel like you're unable to breathe properly, you need first to try to control the hyperventilation. It may go against your instincts, however - yawning or trying to get your chest to expand will only make it worse.

You'll need to take slower breaths so that your body can regain some of its carbon dioxide. You'll also need to breathe through your stomach, since this type of breathing is more productive.

Ideally, you actually need to take smaller and slower breaths, but that can be hard when you're in a panic because of the lightheadedness. Instead, try the following:

  • Breathe in slowly through your nose. Try to fill your stomach and worry less about your chest. This should take about 5 seconds.
  • Hold for a few seconds.
  • Breathe out slowly through pursed lips as though you're whistling. This should take anywhere from 6 to 8 seconds.

This should help you get control of your breathing again so that you're no longer hyperventilating. Some of the secondary symptoms (like chest pains) may take a bit longer to fade, and don't be surprised if it takes a while longer for your anxiety to go away with it.

Once your breathing is under control, your next step will be to reduce your overall anxiety. First, make sure you remind yourself that hyperventilation is extremely common. It affects millions of people, and far more likely than developing a heart problem if you didn't have one already. Assuming you have already been to the doctor, the chance of you having a serious health problem is very small.

Next, make sure you start to take control of the individual symptoms of your anxiety.

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6 Anxiety Breathing Symptoms and How to Stop Them

While everyone feels anxious from time to time, one in five people lives under the influence of a potentially debilitating anxiety disorder. Typically, anxiety disorders are the result of a chemical imbalance within the brain, but they can also be triggered by personal trauma or the result of genetic predisposition.

While symptoms of anxiety vary from person to person, all types of anxiety can potentially affect your breathing patterns and increase your heart rate. You may have experienced episodes that made it feel nearly impossible to catch your breath. It’s frightening and very real. Anxiety can affect your ability to breathe and the way you breathe can also influence your anxiety levels. You can take control of the way you breathe to minimize anxiety breathing symptoms.

The Potentially Debilitating Symptoms of Anxiety

If you are living with one of the many forms of anxiety, you are painfully aware of the symptoms. You might feel as if your thoughts are racing and your body is trembling or sweating. You could feel like your heart is beating entirely too fast, or about to burst out of your chest. It can make falling asleep nearly impossible or wake you during the night. If you are currently living with an anxiety disorder, you may also recognize some of these symptoms:

  • Feelings of impending doom
  • Feeling tired or weak
  • Digestive disturbances
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Feeling tense or nervous
  • Avoiding situations that trigger anxiety

Anxiety can be mild, or it can interfere with your life. One of the more debilitating, and often alarming,  results is its ability to affect the way you breathe. Anxiety can quickly suck you into a vicious cycle of feeling like you can’t breathe, escalated anxiety, then increased breathing difficulties.

Why Anxiety Changes the Way You Breathe

Your brain and body are hardwired for instantaneous response to stress, regulated by the sympathetic branch of your autonomic nervous system. When you feel scared or anxious,  a rapid-fire sequence of hormonal changes and physical responses prepares you to flee or fight. Our ancestors needed this response for survival. Anytime you feel stressed or anxious, your body responds with the same chemical and physical reactions. It’s a natural process meant to protect you from danger.

The Autonomic Nervous System Triggers Hyperventilation

When you are relaxed, or not focused on your breathing, you may notice that you breathe slowly from your lower lungs, engaging your diaphragm. Under stress, when the hormones kick in, your adrenaline surges, your heart beats faster, blood pressure rises, and you start to breathe more rapidly. Your airways open wider. These changes happen so quickly that you may not be aware of them. If you are not engaged in a strenuous activity, this type of upper airway breathing can result in hyperventilation.

Hyperventilation is Triggered by Too Much Oxygen

Although you may feel like you cannot get enough air, the symptoms you feel are actually from over breathing. Your body is taking in too much oxygen and expelling too much carbon dioxide. So you still feel like you are not breathing enough, no matter how hard you try.

Those who are hyperventilating typically take quick, loud gasps of air. Hyperventilation can increase anxiety and make breathing even more difficult. You may feel like you are suffocating, choking or smothering. If you have ever hyperventilated, you felt the effects of too much oxygen and carbon dioxide in your bloodstream. You may also have felt:

  • Dizziness
  • Shortness of breath
  • Nausea
  • Confusion
  • Tingling in your lips, hands, or feet

Thinking about the way you are breathing can also trigger hyperventilation. Trying to control your breathing can cause you to overcompensate and take in too much air. You may have developed a habit of inhaling deeply when you first notice changes in your breathing.

Overcompensation is Counterproductive

A quick intake of a large amount of air is often counterproductive.  Taking in too much oxygen can also increase your feelings of anxiety. You are essentially signaling your brain to expect some type of conflict.

Shortness of breath can be terrifying. Feeling like you can’t get enough air into your lungs can intensify feelings of anxiety and create panic. Some people experiencing an attack can believe they are having a heart attack, further intensifying feelings of panic, and making breathing even more difficult.

Establish Calm by Engaging the Parasympathetic Nervous System

You do not need to be hyperventilating for anxiety to affect your breathing, You may find, that under stress, you start breathing through your mouth. It’s very common, but mouth breathing is essentially an emergency function. To Your brain, you are justifying the emergency response. Your sympathetic nervous system will remain in high gear until your body has an indication that the threat has passed. You may have noticed that rapid shallow breathing can even trigger feelings of anxiety, or symptoms with no apparent trigger.

You can calm this sympathetic response, the rapid heart rate, and breathing difficulties, by activating your parasympathetic nervous system. The parasympathetic nervous system response is like switching on an emergency brake to slow your heart rate, lower your blood pressure, decrease your muscle tension and restore your breathing back to its pre-alerted, calm state.

Trigger a Relaxation Response by Breathing Through Your Nose

Resisting the urge to take in large amounts of air through your mouth can help you restore a calm breathing pattern. Breathing through your nose will activate your parasympathetic nervous system. Changing your breathing pattern sends strong messages to your brain. When you work on breathing calmly, your brain will call off the alarm.

Many people find breathing exercises helpful for controlling their anxiety symptoms. Here are a few simple breathing exercises that may help keep your sympathetic nervous system, the alarm system,  from running the show.

Reestablishing Your Natural Breathing Pattern

Gently inhale through your nose to fill your lower lungs, then exhale naturally. Your stomach should rise and fall, not your shoulders. Concentrate only on filling your lower lungs. This type of breathing is opposite of the type of breathing your body resorts to under stress. Breathing naturally through your nose, the type of breathing you should strive for throughout your day, can help keep the alarms from sounding.

Breathing to Influence Calmness

This exercise is most beneficial when used to release tension before it builds. It is recommended to use this exercise at least ten times each day to eliminate stress. Practicing will allow you to call upon the technique whenever you find your breathing affected by anxiety.

  • Breathe in slowly through your nose, pulling air into your lower lungs first, then upper
  • Hold your breath for three second
  • Exhale slowly through your lips as you relax your jaw, face, stomach, and shoulders

This exercise should help you reestablish feelings of calmness. Use it anytime you feel anxiety building or to calm yourself during panic or episodes of anxiety.

Count Down to Calming

This countdown exercise takes a bit longer, so it gives you time to concentrate on the process of breathing and a break from the thoughts triggered by anxiety. With your thoughts momentarily redirected, you will have a better chance of mastering their effects.

  • Sit with your eyes closed
  • Inhale through your nose slowly while thinking about the word “relax”
  • Countdown with each slow exhales, beginning with ten until you have counted down to one
  • When you reach one, imagine all the tension leaving your body, then open your eyes

Relaxed Measured Breathing

Ancient yogis recognized the ability to instill calm by changing the depth and pace of breathing. It is recommended to practice this exercise for up to thirty minutes every morning, and anytime you feel anxiety levels climbing.

  • Inhale calmy through your nose for a count of six
  • Exhale calmly through your nose for a count of six

Each count should represent one second. You can use this method discretely any time you feel anxious or stressed.

Adjust Your Breathing to Diffuse the Alarm System

Adjusting your oxygen levels may keep your anxiety from escalating. When anxiety makes it feel difficult to breathe, you can diffuse the alarm system by regulating your response. Activating your parasympathetic nervous system by breathing through your nose can help you regain a sense of calm and break the anxiety and breathing difficulties.

If you need further assistance to break the cycle of anxiety, consider enlisting the services of an experienced counselor or therapist. A qualified professional can help you learn effective techniques to minimize the burden of living with an anxiety disorder. Contact us for a personalized approach to help you overcome anxiety and take control of anxiety breathing problems.

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How anxiety distorts reality

  • Bobby Azarian
  • BBC Future

Image copyright Thinkstock

Anxiety tendencies can have a profound effect on how we perceive the world. BBC Future 's columnist wondered if a new treatment would help relieve constant anxiety. nine0018

All sorts of disturbing thoughts rush through your head, your pulse quickens and your breathing gets out of hand. Anxiety gives way to fear, and then you suddenly panic.

You feel confused and overexcited. If these symptoms are familiar to you, then know that you are not alone.

  • Chemophobia: a false fear that makes it difficult to see real dangers
  • Fear of mathematics - where does it come from?
  • What every big boss secretly fears
  • Birds that fear death

Actresses Jennifer Lawrence and Emma Stone, musician Brian Wilson of the Beach Boys and singer Taylor Swift, artist Vincent van Gogh and poet Emily Dickinson suffered from paralyzing anxiety attacks.

Everyone knows that anxiety affects the emotional state of a person and prevents him from interacting with the outside world.

However, few people know about the impact that anxiety has on our attention in everyday life. Because of it, the priorities of attention are shifted, which entails a change in the information entering the brain and, consequently, our perception of reality. nine0011

This can have far-reaching consequences. By influencing attention, anxiety can shape a person's worldview and value system in a certain and predictable way. It can also affect our beliefs without our knowledge.

To avoid the distortion of reality caused by anxiety, you first need to understand the mechanisms that regulate attention and how to control them.

According to a metaphor inspired by the work of a talented and progressive American psychologist 19century William James, our visual attention system is much like a searchlight "scanning" the world around us.

This "spotlight of attention" is a limited area of ​​space that is the focus of attention at a certain moment. What gets into it, the brain consciously processes, but what remains outside it does not.

Looking at the world around, a person focuses his attention on the subject that he would like to examine better. Our brain is not able to process in detail an object, text or environment if they are not in the center of attention. nine0011

Image copyright, iStock

Image caption,

Our mind works like a searchlight, helping us notice important details

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The way this works can be seen in the example of a man reading a book in a crowded train car. His eyes move across the page from left to right, line by line. At the same time, the "spotlight of attention" moves from word to word. nine0011

The word on which a person focuses attention is clearly perceived by his consciousness, while the words that lie outside the "spotlight of attention" seem blurry and mostly illegible.

Such localization is necessary because the simultaneous perception of all visual information about the environment would lead to "overload" of the brain, which is a system with limited resources, like a computer.

"Spotlight" allows the brain to focus only on the important, ignoring all unnecessary information. Thanks to this, we are able to perceive the reality around us. nine0011

In most cases, we consciously choose where to focus our attention, but this process is not always under our voluntary control.

At the same time, not all objects and phenomena around us are perceived by us in the same way. So, for example, a bright flash of light or a sharp movement where it should not be, automatically attracts our attention, and it moves to the point where they arose.

Few people like it when something abruptly distracts their attention, but this does not happen by chance. The involuntary switching of attention is necessary in order to immediately notify a person about what is vital for his survival. nine0011

For an ancient man, the reason for the automatic switching of attention could be a prey running past or, if less lucky, an approaching danger - a predator or a dangerous enemy, for example.

Image copyright, iStock

Image caption,

Without the "attention spotlight" we wouldn't be able to read because it helps us focus on a few words while ignoring the rest. nine0011

Snakes, spiders, angry or frightening faces, threatening postures, and weapon-like objects are all capable of drawing our attention. We can say that visual attention prioritizes threats in the interests of self-defense.

Undoubtedly, this function helps a person to survive, but anxiety can make a system for quickly and effectively detecting threats hypersensitive, as a result of which the "spotlight of attention" begins to work to the detriment of a person.

So, for example, you can lose some control over your own attention, because it focuses too quickly on what the brain perceives as a danger, regardless of whether it really is or not. nine0011

And when a person focuses only on danger, negative information takes over his consciousness.

To understand exactly how anxiety can completely change a person's worldview, changing the priorities of attention, think about what it is like for a person with a high level of anxiety to travel by train through a densely populated metropolitan area.

Imagine that you are standing on a crowded subway platform, looking out into the crowd around you. Your attention is automatically attracted to people with an unfriendly expression, while you simply ignore cheerful faces. nine0011

As a result, you feel that everyone around you is a little upset, and your mood deteriorates.

While you are waiting for your stop on the train, you suddenly notice that a large man in a hooded sweatshirt sitting next to you is suddenly putting his hand into his pocket, as if trying to get a weapon.

Luckily, he pulls out a mobile phone from his pocket, but the whole situation makes you wonder what would happen if it was a gun.

As a result, you become even more convinced that the subway is a dangerous place, full of dubious characters and irritated people. nine0011

Image copyright, iStock

Image caption,

Over the course of our evolution, we have developed the ability to spot potentially dangerous objects in our environment, such as spiders, which can be poisonous

Now imagine that this happens all the time. Due to the fact that the threat is a priority, we filter out all the good and perceive only the bad. The cognitive system is overwhelmed with excitement and fear.

This causes anxiety to have too much of an effect on how we evaluate our environment. In fact, to anxious people, the world literally seems to be a frightening and dysfunctional place. nine0011

These radical changes in perception can shape a person's worldview, including their political and ideological beliefs.

For example, a 2009 study showed that anxiety can affect a person's attention in such a way that all people from the Middle East begin to seem dangerous to him. This undoubtedly influences his political views regarding immigration.

As part of the experiment, the researchers asked participants from Western countries with different levels of anxiety to take a computer test. It consisted of pressing a key in response to visual stimuli appearing on the screen. nine0011

First, the subjects saw a word flashing on the screen, and then two faces - an Arab and a European, on each of which a dot from the sight could appear.

The results showed that people with high anxiety responded more quickly to the dots that appeared on the faces of people with an Arab appearance if they were previously shown a word associated with terrorism - for example, "bomb".

This means that when the anxious person was made to think about terrorism, the faces of people from the Middle East were at the center of his visual attention, which indicates the expectation of danger. nine0011

Research findings explain why people with high levels of anxiety often side with politicians who promise to protect the country by banning immigration and imposing tough national security measures.

This is confirmed by the results of another study conducted in 2012 by a group of scientists from the University of Nebraska at Lincoln.

They found that people who pay more attention to negative images tend to lean towards the right politically. nine0011

In one experiment, researchers showed liberal and conservative participants computer-generated collages of pictures with positive and negative connotations.

At the same time, they tracked the subjects' eye movements to see what they were paying attention to.

Image copyright, iStock

Image caption,

If a person is prone to anxiety, the whole world can seem dangerous to him

They found that those whose attention was immediately and permanently attracted to unpleasant and repulsive images - for example, traffic accidents, dead bodies and open wounds - more often identified themselves as conservatives. nine0011

The authors of the study find it logical that people who are more alert and receptive to threats often support center-right politicians who promise to protect society from external threats by strengthening military power and national security, introducing tougher penalties for criminals and discouraging immigration.

In its extreme manifestations, anxiety can have a serious negative impact on human health, but you can change the situation by training your attention. nine0011

What's more, today this can be done with convenient computer programs and even smartphone apps.

The most popular form of training is Attention Bias Modification Training (ABMT for short), also commonly known as Cognitive Bias Modification (CBM for short).

It can include different tasks united by one goal. In standard training, patients see pictures with positive and negative images on the computer screen. As a rule, these are happy and gloomy faces, replacing each other hundreds of times. nine0011

Since anxiety is related to focusing on negative stimuli, patients are asked to select positive images by pressing a key or screen.

By doing this again and again, and ideally for several days or weeks in a row, they get into the habit of paying attention not to the threat and negative information, but to what carries positive information.

Image copyright, iStock

Image caption,

Can we find a way to correct this warped perception of threat and anxiety? nine0011

Dozens of studies have confirmed the effectiveness of this method. Of particular interest is one published in the Journal of the Association for Psychological Sciences, Clinical Psychological Science.

It showed that a 25-45 minute session of ABMT therapy played on a mobile phone reduced threat alertness, subjective anxiety, and observed stress sensitivity.

Patients suffering from anxiety disorders who are unable to receive treatment at the clinic can now also receive psychological help with just a few minutes of an exciting mobile game on the way to work. nine0011

However, some scientists are skeptical about ABMT. In some recent studies, the effectiveness of this type of therapy has been called into question.

Scientists have proven that single sessions of ABMT are no more beneficial than other cognitive-based treatments for anxiety disorders, such as cognitive behavioral therapy, and in some cases even placebo.

Scientist, professor, and licensed psychologist Per Carlbring of Stockholm University admits that these criticisms are valid, but notes that mindfulness training should not be abandoned entirely. nine0011

He explains that according to a meta-analysis, attentional priority adjustment works very well for patients under 37 years of age, especially when it is done in a clinic or laboratory rather than remotely.

Carlbring noticed that ABMT did not reduce anxiety levels only if it failed to adjust the attentional priorities associated with danger.

Therefore, to increase the effectiveness of this treatment method, he suggested using more dynamic tasks with realistic stimuli. nine0011

Carlbring wanted to improve the reliability of this treatment and received a grant to develop and test a new method of attention training using virtual reality. This method works in a more natural way and provides a sense of presence.

"I think moving training into real-life conditions could help us take things to a whole new level," says Carlbring. "I wouldn't be surprised if attention training becomes commonplace by 2020." nine0011

By doing exercises that help us get rid of the constant search for threats and being aware of the effect of anxiety on our attention, we can avoid the consequences of anxiety, such as distorting reality, constantly feeling fear and changing the belief system.

Read the original of this article in English at BBC Future .

How to breathe correctly?

We don't think about how we breathe. The body does this "by itself", without conscious control. However, by controlling our breathing, we can change our state: from stress to relaxation, from despondency to energy. nine0201

Interest in the phenomenon of respiration arose more than two thousand years ago and today is realized in a large number of studies in various fields of medicine.

In the article we understand the mechanics of breathing, explore how breathing affects physical and mental health and how to use it to make your life better.


  • The anatomy of breathing: how it works
  • Why do we breathe
  • How we breathe
  • What prevents you from breathing freely
  • Breathing practices
  • How to help yourself breathe

Anatomy of respiration: how it works

For a long time there were different opinions about the mechanisms of respiration:

  • The School of Hippocrates , the most famous medical school of antiquity, described breathing patterns, but did not connect this process with the lungs .
  • Plato argued that breathing is associated with the passage of air through the pores of the skin.
  • This is disproved Aristotle - he believed that the role of breathing is to cool the heart .
  • An exact description of the respiratory mechanics and the muscles that provide this process, was given by the ancient Roman surgeon and philosopher Galen . However, the “heart-lung” model he described did not correlate with the then prevailing idea of ​​veins and arteries as non-communicating vessels.
  • The discovery of oxygen in 1774 was the culmination of research: it was recognized that breathing performs the function of gas exchange .

It is now known that respiration occurs due to complex interactions of neurons distributed throughout the nervous system.

In the human body, there is a whole neural network that generates respiratory rhythms and forms breathing patterns.

Our respiratory center, as well as the centers of sleep and wakefulness, the control of the heart and vascular tone, are located in the medulla oblongata and the pons - they are built along the central part of the brain and form the so-called trunk. The rhythm of breathing is controlled by pacemaker cells (or pacemakers). They create rhythmic impulses of excitation that spread to other cells. nine0011

To inhale, a person uses the muscles of the chest, especially the diaphragm. It tightens and flattens, allowing air to be sucked into the lungs. When exhaling, it relaxes. This naturally releases air from the lungs. Why do we breathe?

Take a deep breath. Now exhale. Did you notice a difference in how you feel before and after? If your breath was really deep, it's not hard to tell the difference. Breathing is a powerful tool for relieving stress, anxiety, and more. It affects many processes in our body: blood pressure, immune function, concentration. nine0011

Every day we take about 20,000 breaths, with each breath our heartbeat speeds up. With each exhalation, it slows down. The nervous system is particularly sensitive to changes in respiratory rate. Deep inhalation and slow exhalation have a beneficial effect on anxiety and general well-being. The more frequently a person breathes, the greater the likelihood of serious health problems.

If breathing is shallow, oxygen does not reach the bottom of the lungs. The tissues of the body do not have enough oxygen, shortness of breath occurs. In the long term - chronic hypoxia, respiratory failure. nine0011

Improper breathing leads to problems with heartbeat and pressure.

Meditative breathing techniques, yoga practices are comparable to respiratory therapy - a whole set of clinical methods designed to restore the respiratory system, and can even be effective in the field of anesthesiology. For example, improve respiratory function, reduce chronic pain. Some types of breathing are known to have an analgesic effect.

How we breathe

Air can enter the body through the nose or mouth. Let's try to figure out how to do it better. nine0011

Breathing through the nose is more productive than breathing through the mouth. The latter reduces the level of carbon dioxide, slows down brain activity and reflexes, and can also lead to dizziness and even loss of consciousness.

If a person constantly breathes through his mouth, his airways narrow. This impedes the passage of air and can cause respiratory failure, which is characterized by various conditions, up to dangerous ones.

Breathing through the nose helps fight infections because the nostrils and sinuses filter and warm the air that enters the lungs and thus get rid of harmful bacteria. In addition, nitric oxide is formed in the sinuses. In small doses, it is harmful to bacteria. nine0011

Breathing through the nose also improves blood flow to the lungs, increases blood circulation, improves oxygen and carbon dioxide levels in the blood, slows down breathing and increases total lung capacity, improves brain function and maintains body temperature.

The difference is not only in nasal breathing or breathing through the mouth. So, a person can breathe only with the chest (when inhaling it expands, when exhaling it narrows), the stomach (more involved in breathing than the chest), equally chest and stomach (this type of breathing is called mixed). nine0011

  • Chest breathing

When we breathe in the upper part of the chest, we are talking about chest or costal breathing. This is usually how women breathe.

The fact is that in their airways the air flow becomes turbulent faster, and it takes more effort to provide themselves with oxygen.

When breathing in the chest, the voice is often not clear enough, short. The air comes out unevenly, from this the voice often trembles. Vocalists know this especially well. nine0011

A person who is worried often breathes in this way without even being aware of it.
  • Diaphragmatic breathing

Breathing with the active participation of the diaphragm and lower ribs is called diaphragmatic or abdominal. It allows you to increase the volume of inhaled air and improve the saturation of body cells with oxygen. This is how newborns breathe naturally, this type of breathing is inherent in men. People say: breathe with your stomach. nine0011

Diaphragmatic breathing is considered correct. This is slow and deep breathing, which has a positive effect on the brain, cardiovascular, respiratory and gastrointestinal systems. The oxygen content in the blood rises, the exit of gas waste from the lungs is easier, blood pressure and heart rate decrease.

The influence of diaphragmatic breathing on human health requires more careful study. Scientists suggest that it may help treat eating disorders, chronic functional constipation, hypertension, migraine and stress, and may improve the quality of life of patients with cancer, gastroesophageal reflux disease and heart failure. nine0011

What prevents you from breathing freely

Various factors affect breathing: age, lifestyle, diseases, changes in posture.

  • Posture

If a person is hunched, does not keep his back straight, the chest is compressed - the lungs cannot be completely filled when air enters. A stooped posture, compared to a normal vertical posture, significantly reduces lung volume, exhalation rate, and provokes lumbar lordosis (forward curvature of the spine). nine0011

Even a change in the position of the head and neck immediately affects the respiratory function: the strength of the diaphragm decreases.

Postures that we take while sitting at computers, using smartphones, tablets, have a negative impact on our breathing. Studies show that frequent smartphone use can lead to the development of musculoskeletal disorders.

Placing patients in intensive care units in a hammock position (pillows under the head and knees to make it easier to lie in bed) reduces the ability of the diaphragm to function optimally. nine0011

  • Weight

The more fat, the more tissue presses on the chest and diaphragm. This prevents the lungs from filling when breathing, so the person takes shorter breaths than they need. Asthma is closely related to obesity. The risk of developing this disease increases with increasing body mass index.

Studies show that moderate weight loss, especially a reduction in abdominal fat, the fat stores that accumulate inside the abdominal cavity, improves breathing mechanics. This is largely due to the ongoing increase in lung volume. nine0011

  • Stress

Chronic stress plays the same negative role as obesity: it leads to shorter breathing.

When we find ourselves in a stressful situation, we begin to breathe faster and deeper. This is a normal natural reaction. This is how we mobilize our body. However, prolonged stress cannot be compared with such a “march”, and it is imperative to get rid of it so as not to harm yourself as a result of improper breathing. nine0011

  • Environment

The body can naturally avoid polluted, smoky air - a person unconsciously takes short breaths to avoid breathing harmful air.

  • Apnea

This is a serious sleep disorder associated with damage to the central nervous system. In people with sleep apnea, breathing repeatedly stops and resumes during sleep.

Patients with mild apnea may be unable to breathe 5-14 times per hour, with moderate apnea 15-29. Doctors diagnose severe sleep apnea when a person holds their breath more than 30 times per hour.

If sleep apnea is not treated, there is a high risk of chronic fatigue, as well as diabetes, asthma, heart disease, liver disease. Severe consequences - heart attack, stroke, cerebral hemorrhage. All this is the result of oxygen starvation and a sharp rise in pressure. In very rare cases, complete respiratory arrest with a fatal outcome.

To find out if a person has a predisposition to bronchial asthma and understand the causes of breathing problems, you can use the Atlas Genetic Test. nine0406

Apnea can be suspected by the following signs:

- snoring,

- breathlessness during sleep,

- dry mouth after sleep,

- fatigue even after a full night of sleep.

Sleep apnea is treated with medications that greatly relieve symptoms and help prevent serious complications.

Apnea is treated by a sleep specialist.

  • Medications

Opioids, commonly used to treat chronic pain, can cause or exacerbate sleep breathing problems. Painkillers must be used as prescribed and under the supervision of a physician. nine0011

Breathing practices

Proper breathing leads to amazing inner and outer transformation.

Lateral Breathing

Lateral costal breathing, or lateral breathing, improves overall blood circulation, keeps the right muscles active and the person calm.

This is the lateral expansion of the chest during breathing, which causes contraction of the abdominal muscles. In other words, you need to take big breaths with your chest, not your stomach. With each exhalation, the abdominals will tighten and activate more and more. nine0011

Lateral breathing is practiced in Pilates.

Slimming Breathing

Diaphragmatic breathing is believed to promote weight loss. This is true because it increases lung capacity, resulting in more carbon dioxide being exhaled, which helps burn fat. In addition, such breathing lowers cortisol levels and helps the body lose weight. In addition, the muscles involved in breathing become more toned.

Breathing exercises increase resting metabolic rate. nine0011

Breathing for youth

Deep breathing rids the body of excess carbon dioxide and replaces it with a rich supply of oxygen that energizes the cells. Breathing acts as an excellent tonic that improves blood circulation, minimizes the effects of stress on the skin, prolonging youth.

Mindful Breathing

Research shows that mindful breathing exercises are good for a variety of conditions. They promote relaxation, lower blood pressure, reduce the risk of stroke, and improve cardiovascular health. Mindful breathing is also good for digestion and general immunity, which are worsened by stress. nine0011

Conscious breathing is like yoga without yoga. As psychologist and author of Breathe, Belisa Vranich, notes, “Breathing is meditation for people who don’t know how to meditate.”

Holotropic Breathwork

This is a breathing practice based on hyperventilation of the lungs through rapid breathing. It is useful in the complex therapy of common mental conditions such as anxiety and depressive disorders. Can cause positive changes in temperament, increase self-awareness. nine0011

Breath Control

Sit comfortably on the floor or in a chair. Breathe in through your nose. Fill your belly completely with air. When you can no longer breathe, open your mouth as wide as possible, exhale with a "ha" sound. Repeat several times.

Controlled breathing allows you to draw as much air into your lungs as possible, helping to relieve shortness of breath. This is one way to slow down your breathing and make each breath as efficient as possible.

For centuries, yogis have used breath control, or pranayama, to increase concentration and vitality. nine0011

How to help yourself breathe

Paying more attention to your breathing can benefit your health. First of all, avoid breathing through your mouth, as well as shallow breathing.

Conscious breathing, breath control is recommended for everyone. Especially desirable for patients with pulmonary diseases undergoing training and rehabilitation of the respiratory muscles, for athletes seeking to improve their performance.

Today, when masks are to be worn, it is especially important to take time for breathing exercises. They allow you to clear your lungs after wearing a mask for a long time. Moreover, they improve the health of the lungs, increase their volume. nine0011

You can try breathing exercises. Before you start breathing practice, choose a suitable comfortable place for this, put on comfortable clothes.

Try to do your exercises at the same time once or twice a day.

Many breathing exercises take only a few minutes. When you have time, you can do them for 10 minutes or more to get even more benefits.

Deep breathing technique :

  1. Lie on your back or sit in a chair with your shoulders, head and neck resting on the back of the chair.
  2. Inhale through the nose, fill the belly with air.
  3. Exhale through your nose.
  4. Place one hand on your stomach and the other on your chest.
  5. As you inhale, feel your belly rise. As you exhale, feel your stomach drop. The hand on the stomach should move more than the one on the chest.
  6. Take three more full deep breaths. Breathe fully into your belly as it rises and falls with your breath. nine0004
More useful articles on the Atlas blog:
  • What are toxins and will detox get rid of them? breathing. Compr Physiol., 2012
  • From breathing to respiration. Respiration, 2015
  • Chapter 3--networks within networks: the neuronal control of breathing. Prog Brain Res., 2011
  • 5 areas of the brain. Postnauka, 2018
  • Breathing and health. FBUZ "Center for Hygienic Education of the Population" of Rospotrebnadzor
  • Analogy between classical Yoga/Zen breathing and modern clinical respiratory therapy. J Anesth., 2020
  • Which breath is the best choice for us and why. FBUZ "Center for Hygienic Education of the Population" of Rospotrebnadzor
  • Effects of Diaphragmatic Breathing on Health: A Narrative Review. Medicines (Basel), 2020
  • Women breathe harder than men. Science and life, 2020
  • Effect of sitting posture on respiratory function while using a smartphone. J Phys Ther Sci., 2016
  • Effect of Different Head-Neck Postures on the Respiratory Function in Healthy Males. Biomed Res Int., 2018
  • The effect of obesity on lung function. Expert Rev Respir Med., 2018
  • The Effect of Posture on the Diaphragm. Physiopedia
  • Weight loss via diet and exercise improves exercise breathing mechanics in obese men.
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