Here is breathing exercise you can try (adapted from: Bourne, E., The Anxiety and Phobia Workbook, 2005):
- Refer to the relaxation techniques discussed previously.
- Begin by inhaling through your nose slowly while counting slowly: “1, … 2, … 3, … 4 … 5.”
- Pause and hold your breath for a count of five.
- Exhale slowly through your mouth to a count of five (or longer).
- Once you have exhaled completely, take two breaths in your normal rhythm.
- Repeat the exercise for 3-5 minutes.
- If desired, you can choose to practice by visualizing that with each inhalation energy is flowing to all parts of your body and form a mental picture of this energizing process. Alternatively as you exhale, you may wish mentally repeat to yourself, “peace,” “calm,” or “relax” or any other calming words you prefer. With enough practice, you can eventually achieve the state of relaxation or calm by just saying these words.
As you continue this exercise, you might notice that you are able to count higher when you exhale than when you inhale. You should adjust your counting to allow yourself to fully exhale. If you feel light-headed or dizzy, breathe normally for 30-seconds and resume the exercise. Be sure to keep your breathing regular and smooth without gulping in air. Once you have mastered this skill it is particularly helpful to apply it at the first sign of anxiety symptoms or reducing stress.