Breathing exercises for anxiety

Sharing some of my favorite breathing exercises that I use for anxiety that you can do at home in less than 5 minutes.

Let’s all just take a collective sigh together. I know there’s always stuff going on in the world but I feel like everything is so sensationalized and amplified right now. It got to the point where I had to stop checking the news so often because it would send my anxiety into whirlwind and I’d find myself unable to sleep at night. It’s important to be informed, but I think it makes a huge difference to verify to source of information and only take it in the doses that make sense for your life. (For example, while the Pilot was deployed, I couldn’t check the news AT ALL. I figured if something was going on that I needed to know about, I’d find out about it through the fellow wives or social media.)

Whenever I feel myself getting anxious or soaking up too much of the emotions around, I do a handful of things:

– See my therapist. I’ve been seeing her every two weeks since my grandfather passed away and she’s become such a valued member of my health team. I think it’s worth it to see a therapist even if you’re feeling good! They can help you sort through emotions, experiences, and create action plans. I leave every session with new tools, strategies, and tips. (One of my faves: if you start to feel stressed or upset, put your hand on your heart. It releases oxytocin in the body and can help you relax. I’ve been using this one a lot!)

– Disconnect. I set my phone on vibrate and try to minimize the noise.

– Meditate and journal. These two components have formed a solid portion of my late-morning routine and I feel more centered and present when I take 15 minutes to do these things.

– Up the priority for good sleep and quality eats. I feel so much better when I have a solid night of sleep and when I eat a dang vegetable.

– Make sure I get in a weekly “real” yoga practice, or even just yoga stretches at night before bed.

– Move. Sometimes getting outside for a short walk is all it takes! I work out consistently for my mental health in addition to my physical health. I feel so much happier and present when I’ve gotten in a workout. 

(Still LOVE Les Mills On Demand. My link gets your 21 days for free if you want to give it a whirl.)

– BREATHE. It sounds so simple, but makes a huge difference! There are so many times when I start to feel anxious or stressed and I realize I’ve been holding my breath the entire time.

For today’s post, I thought I’d share some of my favorite breathing techniques and exercises, especially for my fellow anxious friends out there and those who have felt overwhelmed lately. (Also, if you’re going through a difficult time, please seek out the help you so deserve. We recently lost a dear friend to mental illness and I want to put it out there that your life has worth. We need you here! If I can direct you to help or resources, please email me.)

Feeling overwhelmed or stressed? Check out these breathing exercises for anxiety.

Breathing exercises for anxiety:

In the yoga world, breathing exercises are referred to as pranayama. This can be just as, if not more, important than an asana practice. Pranayama is the act of controlling our breath, which helps bring life flow (prana) to the body. Pranayama can relax the nervous system, improve lung capacity, increase circulation, and regulate the heart rate. It also feels good! I feel so much more calm and energized after taking time to breathe.

The best way to practice pranayama is in a well-ventilated room, that’s free of noise or distractions, and around the same time each day. By doing this, you help create a practice and habit that it’s easier to maintain consistently. (Or you can just do it after school pickup like me when the kids are picking on each other and arguing in the backseat. Liv is like, “Mom, why are you breathing so loudly?” lol.)

(If you’re pregnant, I would skip exercises 1-3 – don’t hold your breath while pregnant – and just do 4 and 5.)

1) The Dr. Weil 4-7-8 breath. This is an extremely calming breathing technique. You inhale for 4 seconds, hold it for 7 seconds, and release for 8 seconds. Check out a video on how to do this one here.

2) Alternate nostril breathing. For this one, you’ll bring your hand into a fist and release your thumb, ring finger, and pinky. Plug your right nostril with your thumb and inhale through the left nostril. Plug your left nostril with your ring finger and exhale through your right nostril. Inhale with your right nostril, plug it, and exhale with your left. Inhale left, exhale right. I was taught that you should do 7 rounds of this. Video tutorial is here!

3) Lion’s breath. This one is awesome because it looks totally ridiculous. Do this one in the comfort of your own home, unless you don’t give two hecks about other people staring curiously. This version includes sticking your tongue out with a powerful exhale. Video how-to is here!

4) Gratitude breathing. This is one of my very favorites and always brings me back to the real world (instead of the “what-if” world in my brain) and calms me down. Close your eyes, take a nice big inhale, and each time you exhale, think of something that you’re thankful to have in your life.

5) Diaphragmatic breathing. This is something I do every night before bed. It’s helpful to have your legs bent, so either do this seated in a chair with good posture, or lying in bed with your knees bent. Take a big inhale and image that your belly is an umbrella. Open the umbrella as you inhale, filling your belly with air and feeling the ribs expand. Relax your pelvic floor. Keep your ribs down and don’t let your chest puff out. As you exhale push all of the air out of your belly, contracting your transverse abdominis and LIFTING your pelvic floor. This is 8,000x better than Kegels, just sayin.

Challenge: take 5 minutes to breathe today, choosing any of the exercises above! How’d it feel?



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  1. Cindy on March 5, 2020 at 6:45 am

    Love your blog. I need to try this…. yes the news has me so un- nerved. Keeps me awake, and un- hinged? The Socialist movement is so scary for me, within the political Presidential climate… the disrespect I see …. I really need to turn off the news …. thank you for this.

    • Fitnessista on March 6, 2020 at 10:33 am

      yes, it feels good to just turn it off!

  2. Katie on March 5, 2020 at 9:19 am

    I love this!! I hear you about the news. I took the Apple News app off my phone a while ago and it did wonders for my anxiety. There is such a balance between being informed and being inundated with sensationalized information. I take CBD twice a day, meditate in the mornings, and go to the gym 4-5 times a week. That seems to help too!

    • Fitnessista on March 6, 2020 at 10:34 am

      that’s SO smart to remove it from your phone. i’ll just be hanging out and something horrifying will pop up on the screen. i can’t believe i forgot to add CBD into this post. it helps a ton with my anxiety

  3. Kelly on March 5, 2020 at 9:36 am

    I just finished Mark Manson’s essay “Why You Should Quit the News,” so this is SO on my mind right now! I don’t think we as human beings are meant to be exposed to this constant barrage of information, most of which is negative and not even relevant to our daily lives. There’s a part in the essay where he talks about being in Australia during the wildfires, and his family’s impression of how things were based on the news media versus the reality there on the ground. That really spoke to me because I had read or seen the very articles and photos he refers to and, yes, felt like the world was ending! I’m not jumping on the “fake news” bandwagon or anything – I respect true journalists – but I do believe a 24/7 news cycle is unnecessary and does much more harm to society than good.

    BTW, this is the first time I’ve commented and just want to say I’m so glad I discovered your blog. I love it, and I’ve started listening to your podcast as well. Thank you for sharing such helpful information and also just for putting good vibes out there! 🙂

    • Fitnessista on March 6, 2020 at 10:34 am

      thank you so much for reading and for taking the time to leave a comment! happy you like the podcast, too 🙂
      i absolutely agree that we’re not meant to be exposed to a constant barrage of information. i like the small strategic doses

  4. Jessie R on March 5, 2020 at 10:57 am

    Yes to minimizing the news in your life. I stopped watching it regularly a few years ago and maybe watch it once every few weeks – Saturday or Sunday morning seems to be the least sensational. I think it is important to look at nonUS news outlets because American news tends to be way more dramatic than necessary. I am taking a break from Facebook because things are just out of control on that platform.

    I like the Dr. Weil breath a lot, it’s so easy to get caught up in the moment and forget to breathe :). Thanks for the great reminders!! <3

    • Fitnessista on March 6, 2020 at 10:35 am

      i think that’s so smart to just watch it every few weeks on the weekend. i think i’ll start doing the same thing. love the idea to check out non-US news sources, too

  5. Katrina on March 6, 2020 at 11:58 am

    I recently lost an ex-boyfriend to suicide. He had a substance abuse issue and unfortunately couldn’t handle me breaking up with him and overdosed. The worst thing is that his family is blaming me and thinks it’s all my fault.

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