Here we are in part three! Hopefully by now you’ll have been practicing regularly, and have an increased ability to breathe correctly in a way that can be applied during periods of anxiety or panic.
Now that you’re able to breathe at a slower rate, it’s time to practice in a variety of places, not just those places that are relaxing or comfortable. The assignment here is to do the slow breathing exercise when you’re at work, grocery shopping, going out socially with others, or watching television or out at the movies.
This is also a time to start applying your breathing skills in situations where you need to face anxiety, and in situations that bother you. When you feel anxious or frightening feelings build, start to concentrate on slow, smooth breathing from your diaphragm. Remember to count on your inhalations and think the word “relax” when you exhale. Continue to count 1 – 10 and then 10 back down to 1, slowing your breathing to about three seconds on the inhalation and three seconds on the exhalation.
The important thing to remember is that the goal is not to eliminate your anxiety, but to regulate your breathing, interrupt your panic cycle, and help you go ahead and face those things that are making you feel anxious. I’ll reiterate here that breathing skills are intended to move you forward, so you can face and overcome your fears rather than hide from them. A key skill is to be able to “breathe through” anxiety.
Also, please remember that even if you can’t control your overbreathing, or the symptoms of breathlessness, that you are not in danger. This is an important point, because believing that you have to slow your breathing to prevent a heart attack or some other catastrophe only adds anxiety to the breathing exercise. I’ll say it again, hyperventilating is not dangerous.
At this point you don’t need to continue the twice daily, 10-minute practices of breathing skills, especially if you feel you have a level of mastery of breathing slowly from your diaphragm. If you want to continue with them though, feel free.
Remember to continue recording your panic attacks using the breathing skills record. Practice your breathing skills in different, distracting environments whenever you can. Begin applying breathing skills so you can continue during activities or in situations that make you nervous. You are adding a fundamental skill in fighting panic attacks!
Here is a useful tool: it’s an app called Panic Relief. It’s available as a Google and Apple app that can help you with your breathing exercises, and something you can refer to right in situations where you need it the most.
I hope these exercises have been helpful to you. Remember that while helpful, these articles are no substitute for a trained professional to guide you through the process of addressing panic disorder or other anxiety disorders. Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions, or are considering counseling either locally or through video chat.