The BEST Breathing Exercise for Anxiety (Plus 11 Other Ways to Find Relief!)
If you’re reading this, I’m assuming you’re struggling with anxiety or you have a client who does. And if you (or your clients) are struggling with anxiety, chances are you’ve been told to “just breathe” like a million times. But like…howwwwww? When someone’s in the midst of a panic attack or feeling anxious AF, breathing is probably the last thing on their mind. Am I right?
Luckily, there are breathing exercises for anxiety that can help you or your clients feel as cool as a cucumber when your stress levels go through the roof. And I’m not talking about some hippie-dippie breathing techniques that take hours to master. I’m talking about simple, effective breathing exercises that you can do anywhere, anytime.
So whether you or your client’s are dealing with everyday anxiety or full-blown panic attacks, this article will outline one of my absolute FAVE practices we teach here at Pause Breathwork. Plus, I’ll share with you 11 other exercises I use to relax when anxiety comes knocking at my door.
But first, let’s take a look at what’s going on in the body when someone is feeling anxious and what causes anxiety in the first place. This is super important to know first because it will help you get to the root cause of what’s going on and help you or your clients find relief sooner.
So What Causes Anxiety?
I think when we talk about the subject of anxiety, the brain oftentimes goes to the “fix it” mode.
What do I need to do? What supplement do I need to take? What crystal do I need to lick?
And one of the most powerful ways we can mitigate anxiety, release anxiety, and clear it is really through these three things:
1. Make a List of Anything That’s Out of Alignment
Oftentimes, what drains us and depletes our energy and gives us higher states of anxiety is the emotional misalignment in our lives. So the first thing I do is literally just make myself a list.
What am I saying yes to that is actually a no?
Whether that is a work commitment, or something in a relationship, or social plans, or maybe it’s a trip that’s coming up, whatever it is. What in your life are you not a full body “YES” to? And start by just making a list of those things and asking yourself, am I prepared to release this? What would it look like if I let this go?
2. Set Boundaries
The second thing is, where do I need to create stronger boundaries?
Anxiety shows me where I need stronger boundaries. So for instance, a few months ago, I realized that my work schedule was getting really intense. I was doing like 5 hours of meetings a day on top of another 5-7 hours of everything else that I needed to do.
Then I was like, wow, I’m burning out. I’m looking at my schedule for the next day. And it’s already giving me anxiety. And I knew I needed to make a radical change.
So I sat down with my assistant, and I was like, no matter what, do not let me exceed three hours of meetings a day. Let’s keep that boundary.
And since doing that and having a real strong boundary around it, it has alleviated so much stress. And I realized that the boundary there was me not honoring my own boundary that I created. And so then, of course, no one else was going to adhere to it either…
So it all added up, and then I couldn’t do the things that were really important to me. What’s really important is at the end of the day that I have enough time, energy, and resource to be super present with my partner, my friends, and my family.
I never want to go – I’m too tired for family and friends because work took precedence today. Like that sucks. Ya know?
I’d never want that because my values are that family comes before work. And so when my values don’t add up to my blueprints or my reality of what’s actually happening, it really freakin’ sucks. And so when I look at the things that are giving me anxiety, I first really check in with where I need stronger boundaries.
3. Tell the Truth
And the last one, number three, is, where am I not fully telling the truth to myself and others?
Where am I not 100 percent fully f*cking honest, you know? Where am I saying I’m fine when I’m not or saying everything’s cool when it’s not?
So BEFORE I do a breathing exercise for anxiety, I first go through those three things, and generally, those eliminate whatever threads of contraction that I’m holding onto. This is how we get into a better relationship with anxiety.
And really, rather than anxiety being this annoying thing that comes up, it’s like, oh, the anxiety shows us where we’re out of alignment.
The anxiety shows us where we need more truth. Changing the relationship to the anxiety, rather than it being this inconvenient thing that comes and I need to breathe my way out of…
Do not start with trying to Breathwork your way out of anxiety. If you’re feeling anxious, you don’t want to go on a breathwork rampage and try to get rid of it… That’s not healthy.
We need to meet the anxiety with love first. We need to accept it fully. We need to integrate it into our bodies. And then we need to use the breath as a tool to support us in dealing with it. Not to try and get rid of it. Because what happens is we’ll temporarily not feel it (while we’re getting high off our own supply), but as soon as we stop doing Breathwork, the anxiety will come back.
Because if we want to heal the anxiety, we have got to feel it and take action on what it’s telling us.
When I’m experiencing anxiety, I ask myself these three questions FIRST, before I do Breathwork or the cold plunge or many of the things I’m going to suggest in this article…
So with that starting point out of the way… let’s get into how to breathe for anxiety relief!
What Going on in Your Body When You Feel Anxious
When you’re feeling anxious, your breathing becomes quick, rapid, and uncontrolled. This happens automatically and feels like the body is breathing YOU (versus you breathing the body).
This type of breathing is known as “chest breathing,” and it’s basically the opposite of what we want to be doing when we’re trying to calm down. Here at Pause Breathwork, we call this a “fear-based” pattern.
How to Breathe Deeply for Anxiety
Instead, we want to take deep breaths into the belly. Also known as “diaphragmatic breathing” or “abdominal breathing,” this type of breathing activates the parasympathetic nervous system (a.k.a. the “rest and digest” response) and is called a “love-based” pattern at Pause Breathwork. When breathing in this way, your breath becomes slow, fluid, and relaxed.
Now that we know how to breathe for anxiety let’s look at one of the BEST breathing exercises to do this!
One of our BEST Breathing Exercise for Anxiety
This breathing exercise is a game-changer, and I’m not exaggerating. We teach this breathing technique to our clients and facilitators here at Pause Breathwork because it’s just that good. It’s called the “Halo-Active Breath.”
The Halo-Active Breath is a breathing exercise for anxiety that combines both nose and mouth breathing. And it’s super simple to do. All you need is a comfortable place to sit or lie down and about three minutes of uninterrupted time.
Here’s how it works:
– Take a deep breath in through your nose, allowing your belly to expand
– Exhale out of your mouth, making an optional “ahh” sound
– Repeat this breathing pattern for a minimum of three minutes (I like to do it for at least five)
– After 3 minutes are up, exhale all the air from your lungs and hold your breath – this is called a “bottom hold.”
– When you feel ready, return back to your regular breathing pattern
If you want a more in-depth experience of this breathing exercise for anxiety, check the Pause Breathwork App, where we have a guided version of this breathing exercise (and many others!)
Deep breathing is one of the quickest, most effective ways to calm down when you or your clients are feeling anxious. But sometimes, you need a little extra help to get out of your head and into your body. If that’s the case, here are ten more calming techniques for anxiety relief.
11 Other Exercises to Relax and Find Anxiety Relief
The reduction of anxiety needs to be a proactive approach, not a reactive approach. And I think that’s like one of the biggest things that I want to share in this article.
I used to just manage my anxiety when it came, and then I would distract and numb and work out and overeat. And it was a very reactive approach to this. But when we proactively do the little things every single day, we hit this baseline of just feeling good.
#1 – Rest
I go to bed at 10:00 pm, and I wake up anywhere between 5:45 and 6:15 unless I’m doing a writing sprint and I get up earlier.
So rest is so important. If you can get eight to nine hours a night – do it! Don’t be scrolling on the gram, looking at reels. I mean, you could totally do that, but just set a time limit for that. Like, hey, I’m going to check out reels for like 15 minutes, and then that’s it.
You just don’t want the mindless scroll for hours on end. Right? It really cuts into your rest.
I realize that for new parents, 8-9 hours of sleep a night might not be realistic, so wherever you’re at in your life, just maximize rest as much as possible, which includes rest at night and also rest during the day.
Taking little brain breaks. If you have 15 free minutes on your schedule, don’t go into your email and try and get through all your emails during your “break.” Instead, breathe for 15 minutes because that is so relaxing. It calms the mind. It opens the heart. It drops you into the body.
#2 – Limit Caffeine and Alcohol
I love my morning cup of coffee. I really do. I’m not going to tell you to stop drinking coffee, but just don’t drink it consistently throughout the day because what we know to be true is it’s a stimulant, and it’ll jack up your anxiety.
Same thing with alcohol.
I used to do more drinking back in my day. I don’t drink a whole lot these days, maybe twice a month, but literally, every single time I do drink alcohol the next day, I feel way more anxious. So for those of you who are constantly feeling anxious on a day to day, just check in with that. And again, I’m not telling you not to drink alcohol, but just limit it.
#3 – Hydration and Electrolytes
Get those electrolytes in your belly! I’m obsessed with electrolytes. I have them in my water all day long. I drink water all day long, and I’m always leaving team meetings to pee (lol, seriously!) I’ll be like, I got to go, BRB! So this one’s a simple one.
#4 – Grounding Practices and Earthing
Get your feet in the frickin earth. Get your feet in the dirt, go walk in the sand, go walk in the grass, find a little patch of earth and just get your body in it. Better yet, lying down.
#5 – Healthy Connection
Uninterrupted, soul to soul frickin connection.
Whether that’s with your partner, family, or friends — a deep connection can put your heart at ease and help you find anxiety relief instantly.
#6 – Cold Plunge
You don’t need to have a cold plunge. You can have cold showers. Just friggin blasting it on cold every single day. This is way more of a mental practice. There are so many health benefits and emotional benefits. This practice will definitely train your mindset to believe, “I can handle and do hard things!”
For me, the cold plunge is like my hard thing. I meet the resistance. I feel the resistance. I settle into it.
And that’s the same relationship I have with my anxiety. I feel the anxiety. I meet the anxiety. I settle into it. I accept it. And guess what? Then I transcend it.
So get your booty in some cold water. Whether it is the cold plunge, a cold shower, ideally like the cold in nature, is like my friggin favorite. Back when I lived in Canada, I would jump in rivers. I would jump in little pools of water that I saw. It was just so much fun. I’ve always really loved cold exposure again for the mindset challenge of it, but also the health benefits.
#7 – Journalling
I love doing just a stream of consciousness in the morning when I get up. It’s part of my morning ritual of just writing. My partner is always like, are you writing about me? And I’m like, no, it doesn’t even make sense what I’m writing about.
Just grab your pen, grab a journal and just write whatever comes to mind. And it might not even make sense. But when we just take everything that’s in our mind and we put it on paper, we just create clarity in our mind. When we have clarity in our mind, our body is not responding energetically to our thoughts, and that helps reduce anxiety a lot.
#8 – Breathwork Then Meditation
This should be number one for me, right?!
I never meditate before Breathwork. I hate it. It’s distracting. My mind is too busy.
Doing Breathwork and then meditating right after is so powerful.
The way that our app is set up is you can do as little as 3 minutes and as long as 40 minutes depending on the time you have and depending on the result that you want – whether it’s clearing anxiety, clearing your mind, or feeling your intuition.
So Breathwork and meditation all day long. Obviously. I’m obsessed.
# 9 – Space
Spaciousness. When we keep ourselves hyper-distracted and busy and go, go, go – we don’t allow ourselves to just feel. One of the biggest reasons we struggle with anxiety as a society is because we are so disconnected from feeling; we’re just thinking, thinking, thinking all the time.
Give yourself time to feel. Give yourself spaciousness.
#10 – Have an Evening Ritual
I turn off my tech one hour before bed. No laptop, no phone. Put it away.
One of the worst things that we could do is just be on our phone until the minute we go to bed, and then we just go to bed with all of that stress and all the to-do list, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah.
So if you go to bed at 10, turn your phone off at nine o’clock. You’re going to be OK. Everything’s going to be fine. Turn your phone off at nine o’clock, and that’s your sort of wind-down time.
So that’s when I do some really gentle meditation and Breathwork, so I’ll do the Halo-Active breath that I shared earlier in this article. (Which is in through the nose, out through the mouth. I’ll let that exhale be nice and relaxed. We’re not forcing it. We don’t want to activate the system. We want to relax).
And I’ll do that for about ten minutes and then go into about a 20-minute meditation and just let myself really wind down all, then grab my journal and write down everything that was amazing that day. Really reflecting on the moments that mattered and the moments that felt really good.
And then I have a lot of presence with my face routine – taking off my mascara, washing my face, putting my creams on, brushing my teeth, doing all those things like really taking time with it. It’s not a race. It’s a ritual.
And just those things of just being so present to what I’m doing and how it’s making me feel and even having gratitude. I live in a home with running water. That’s rare and so incredible. You know, I’m so grateful for this human that I live with that I get to spend my life with. Whoa, that’s so cool. Yeah, so really taking those moments to be present, they’re so sacred.
And I’m going to end with the number one important thing…
As you’re reading this right now, I just want you to drop into your body a little and take a deep breath. Drop your shoulders. Closing your eyes. Feeling the potency of the silence. Bringing both hands up to your heart. Feeling the energy of your heart, the power of your heart.
You are safe to feel. You’re safe to be. You’re safe to breathe.
And that’s it, my friend. You’ve just received my favorite breathing exercise for anxiety that will change your life (plus eleven other exercises to help you find relief!)
If you want to dive deeper into supporting clients with Breathwork and master facilitating breathing exercises for anxiety relief, then check out our FREE Training: How to Get Your Clients Lasting Results. This free training will help you x10 you impact, income, and influence by adding breathwork to your business. Watch the free training here.
Sending you so much love.