How to Use Diaphragmatic Breathing to Help You Feel Calm:
When we are stressed and anxious we tend to take short, shallow breaths. Breathing this way can cause us to reach a point of hyperventilation, which is when we’ve upset the balance of oxygen and carbon dioxide in our bodies such that we have too little carbon dioxide in our bloodstream. This results in less blood flow to the brain and can cause us to feel dizzy, weak, constricted in the chest, and agitated. This in turn increases our anxiety and perpetuates the cycle.
You’ve probably seen movies in which people breathe into a brown paper bag when they’re panicking. This method combats hyperventilation because the carbon dioxide trapped in the bag is breathed in again. Diaphragmatic breathing is another way you can learn to help yourself calm down, and it’s much less conspicuous than the paper bag method!
Here’s how: As you inhale, you want your breath to travel throughout your entire diaphragm rather than just your chest. Picture your stomach filling up like a balloon with each inhale and deflating with each exhale. Use your abdominal muscles to puff your stomach out as you breathe in. Pull your abdominal muscles in as you exhale. Keep breathing like this for a few minutes. Once you’ve gotten the hang of it, see if you can slow down the rate of your breath a bit. This shouldn’t be drastic. Just see if you can make each breath take a bit longer than the one before it.
If you can help yourself feel calmer using this method, you’ll be more likely to feel that you can tackle or tolerate the things that are making you feel stressed and anxious. The more you practice this, the calmer you should feel in everyday life and the more successfully you’ll be able to use this method during a moment of panic.