Experiencing shortness of breath or other breathing difficulties can be a scary but common symptom of anxiety. Anxiety is your body’s natural response to fear-also known as the fight or flight response and is your body’s way of preparing to fight or run from the situation causing distress.
Other symptoms that can occur during this response and as a result of anxiety include:
- faster breathing (hyperventilation)
- chest tightness
- breathlessness or a feeling of suffocation
- feeling like you have a lump in your throat
- muscle tension
- heart palpitations
- feeling faint, dizzy, or unsteady
- nausea or stomach discomfort
- restlessness, irritability, or feeling on edge
You can experience chest tightening, shortness of breath, and faster breathing because your body is trying to get more oxygen to your muscles and preparing you to run. Your heart rate increases and you may feel hot as more blood pumps to your muscles, preparing you to fight.
All of these symptoms are normal body responses designed to save your life. However, if you’re not preparing to fight a tiger or run from an angry bear, it can be counter productive and lead to feelings of distress.
When experiencing shortness of breath during an anxiety attack, it can seem counterproductive to focus on your breath but by focusing on your breathing and getting it under control you can get the right amount of oxygen to your lungs and begin to break the anxiety cycle.
Abdominal (diaphragmatic) breathing is the most efficient and relaxed way of getting enough air into your lungs.
Here’s how to practise diaphragmatic breathing:
- Sit up comfortably in a chair or lie back on a flat surface, like your bed, with your head supported.
- Place one hand on your upper chest and the other below your rib cage. This will allow you to better feel your diaphragm as you breathe.
- Breathe in slowly through you nose so your stomach moves out against your hand.
- Tighten your stomach muscles. Let them fall inward as you exhale through your nose or your mouth (depending on what’s easier for you).
- Continue to take deep breaths in and out, feeling your stomach rise in and out. Do this for 5 to 10 minutes a day.
In HypnoBirthing we use the Calm Breathing technique-practise your abdominal breathing and as you breathe in count to 4…and breathe out to the count of 8.
If you notice shortness of breath before experiencing a full-blown panic attack, learn to recognise it. Don’t ignore it and focus on your breath before the symptoms escalate.
Why not give me a call or email to discuss how hypnotherapy may be able to help your symptoms? I use a wide range of techniques and am able to tailor a plan to suit each individual’s needs. You can also like my Facebook page to be kept up to date with news, hints: Hilltop Hypnotherapy & HypnoBirthing Facebook Page