Anxiety and Breathing

Anxiety and breathing have long been grouped together. Your breath is an indicator of your mood. If your breathing is shallow, you’re likely stressed. If you’re breathing is deep and even, you’re likely flowing through life.

Breathing is a major part of life. I mean, c’mon — you’d be dead without it. THOUGH I have read about the breatharian lifestyle BUUUUT we’ll leave that for another (weird) conversation. Our breath occurs without much thought backing it. It’s pretty much automatic, we breathe in, we breathe out. We breathe in, we breathe out. Simple, hey?

Anxiety and Breathing

When you breathe in air, blood cells are oxygenated (literally their favorite thing to be) and release carbon dioxide. This CO2 is a waste product (much like your poop) that is carried through your body and exhaled. Man, every time I think of the human body and our breath, I get LEGIT goosebumps. We are such cool animals.

OKAY ANYWAY, when we aren’t breathing right (ie: short, shallow breaths), it gets the body all confused in the oxygen/CO2 exchange happening and can cause anxiety, panic attacks, and fatigue (just to name a few).

When people are experiencing anxiety and breathing, they tend to be taking super shallow, tight, short breaths. And guess what, this gives you ALL the air that you actually need to stay alive (okay, cool), BUT BUT BUT all the other symptoms that show up will be a huge pain in the butt. 

The Cycle

Let me explain, when you are experiencing anxiety and breathing, your body goes into a fight or flight type of mode. Your brain is tricking you into thinking you need to breathe fast and short so that you can get more oxygen into your lungs, but the lie detector test results came in and that is FALSE, Susan.

What’s actually happening within the relationship of anxiety and breathing is that you simply aren’t exhaling properly. So, putting everything we’ve just learned together, you aren’t releasing the CO2 (carbon dioxide) that your cells are producing from absorbing the oxygen. You picking up what I’m putting down here?

When you’re breathing is off (ie: short and shallow), you risk getting chest pain or heaviness through tensing the muscles of your chest. FUN FACT (I just learned this), when you feel pain in your chest when you’re experiencing a panic attack, your heart has NOTHING to do with it. It’s actually coming from the contractions your chest muscles are going through. Yeah, anxiety and breathing are nothing to play with.

The good news is that once you know this, you can stay aware of your breathing when you get into anxiety-ridden situations (easier said than done but that’s why this is a PRACTICE). Hey, the first step of recovery is always being AWARE of the issue.

SOOOO, when you’re experiencing anxiety and breathing, your blood is not being properly oxygenated (dang I love that word). And this can signal a stress response (“HOUSTON, WE HAVE A PROBLEM”), to the rest of the body and BAM you’re a ball of stress, anxiety, overwhelm, and pain. Annnnd the cycle continues. 

The Point

Moral of the story here? Anxiety and breathing are like two peas in a pod. If you’re aware of your breath when you experience anxiety (or any other stress-related symptom), take a moment to become super aware of your breath and work backward. Your brain is going to say you need more air (so you stop exhaling as much), but DON’T DO THIS. Instead, as uncomfortable as it may seem (and counterintuitive), breathe LONG, SLOW, DEEP breaths. 

I promise it will change EVERYTHING.