4 Breathing Techniques To Help You Calm Down

by Brianna Wiest

You can probably imagine the classic image of a person having a panic attack: knees up in the fetal position, breathing in and out of a paper bag. Have you ever wondered why people do that? (Or at least, why they do that in the cartoons?) What's happening when you breathe into a bag is that you're slowing your intake of oxygen, and to conserve what you do have left, your body is relaxing you and releasing any unnecessary functions (panic, in other words).

Anxiety isn't just caused by thoughts you assume you have no control over. It's also a product of low blood pressure, new birth control, and yeah, often enough — breathing.

You've probably heard people going on without pause about why it's important to meditate, get outside, and be more in tune with yourself. These are no longer life philosophies of hippies — they're going mainstream, and with good reason. You probably know more people who struggle with anxiety than not — yourself potentially included. So it's not a matter of what to do if you get anxiety someday, but how to prevent it now, and how to cope with it as soon as it crops up.

While tackling this is more holistic than just addressing your breathing, it's another important tool to keep in your back pocket. Here are a few cool breathing techniques to try each day, and see if they work for you too!

Drop Breath Meditation

Take a deep breath in, and then after you release, do not go to breathe in again. Linger there, at the bottom. It's crucial that you do not force this, simply allow it. Resist your immediate discomfort or panic response, and you'll realize that your body can go for quite a long time without taking another breath. When your body truly needs to receive more oxygen, the breath will initiate on its own. Continue doing it, and you'll feel your body almost melt.

Rapid Fire Breathing

Though we tend to think that short breaths are what create anxiety, short, rapid breaths can also spark an incredible amount of energy within you. Mimic a fast, panting-like breath rhythm with your hands in the air and just your thumbs sticking out (you'll look a little nuts, but it works). Not only does it soothe you, but it gives you clarity as well.

In-Breath Holding

It is as it sounds: take a deep breath in and then hold it for as long as you can. It's like the drop breath, except just the opposite. It has essentially the same effect, but one is sometimes more comfortable than another, depending on the person.

Breathe In Calm, Breathe Out Stress

Close your eyes and with each in breath, imagine that you're taking in exactly how you want to feel. As you breathe in, imagine what it would look like to be totally at peace, or comfortable — whatever you want in that moment. When you breathe out, focus on how you feel right now, and imagine it releasing in the face of the image you're working toward.

Images: Jamie Grill Atlas/Stocksy; Giphy (2)