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Five Easy Techniques You Can Do Anywhere to Combat Anxiety 🧠
The Connection Between Deep Breathing and Anxiety (6min Read)
Anxiety rates have increased drastically since COVID, but breath control can offer natural relief.
The Autonomic Nervous System (ANS) includes the "fight or flight" and "rest and digest" systems, both influenced by anxiety and calm respectively.
Sustained high cortisol levels, controlled by the Hypothalamic-Pituitary-Adrenal (HPA) Axis, can lead to anxiety.
Slow, deep breathing can stimulate the calming effects of the parasympathetic nervous system.
Box Breathing, Diaphragmatic (Belly) Breathing, Heart Coherence Breathing, Physiological Sighing, and CalmiGo Guided Breathing are recommended anxiety-relief techniques.
Use the code: MBBLab for $30 off CalmiGo
It's no secret that life can sometimes feel overwhelming, especially for those who are trying to heal after an abusive relationship or from a traumatic experience.
In these circumstances, anxiety can become a common and unwelcome companion.
In fact, since COVID, there’s been a 300% in the rates of anxiety in the US population…
Luckily, some of the most effective tools to combat anxiety are as natural and accessible as your own breath?
Today you’ll learn about 5 techniques & 1 device, called CalmiGo, that I use with my own clients to take advantage of the Neuroscience of breathing!
The Neuroscience Behind Anxiety
Before we dive into the tools, let’s dissect the Neuroscience of why they work!
First of all, what even is “anxiety”? I’ve written about this before, but let’s review it briefly.
The Sympathetic & Parasympathetic Nervous Systems
The ANS is divided into two main branches: the sympathetic nervous system (SNS), responsible for our "fight or flight" response, and the parasympathetic nervous system (PSNS), which controls our "rest and digest" functions.
When we're anxious, the SNS is activated, accelerating our heart rate, and quickening our breath, readying us for action.
This activation is what most people are talking about when they are feeling “anxious.”
The HPA Axis & Anxiety
The HPA Axis is a neuroendocrine system that’s responsible for our longer-term stress response.
It works closely with the SNS, and both have the same boss, the hypothalamus!
When a threat - real or perceived - is detected, the hypothalamus secretes corticotropin-releasing hormone (CRH), which in turn signals the pituitary gland to release adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH).
ACTH then prompts the adrenal glands to produce and release cortisol, the primary stress hormone.
High levels of cortisol, when sustained over time, can lead to symptoms of anxiety as well.
The Neuroscience of Breathing
You might be surprised that even though what’s going on in your Nervous System is complicated, the solution is simple, and you’re doing it right now.
That being said, how on earth is it possible that something so simple can calm us down & deactivate these complex systems?!
Breathing & the Brain
At a high level, deep, slow breathing activates the parasympathetic nervous system (PSNS) by stimulating the vagus nerve.
I’ve written an entire blog about the near-superhuman abilities of the vagus nerve, so I suggest reading that if you’d like to go deeper on the topic.
When the vagus nerve is activated it sends signals to the brain, communicating safety and calm.
When the brain registers these signals, it can inhibit the hypothalamus's release of CRH, effectively slowing or stopping the stress response cascade through the HPA Axis.
Once all of our systems come out of red alert, the PSNS can start cleaning up the mess of our SNS & HPA Axis by reducing levels of cortisol & other stress chemicals in the bloodstream.
This reduces the physical symptoms of stress and anxiety.
Additionally, deep breathing increases the release of endorphins, the body's natural painkillers, and "feel-good" neurotransmitters, promoting a sense of calm and well-being.
Five Easy Breathing Techniques
Alright, enough neuroscience, here are the techniques!
You can do these anywhere and anytime to help combat anxiety, mostly only require 2-5mins to start working.
1. Box Breathing
Let’s cover the simplest ones first! Box Breathing has been used for hundreds of years and is famously used by the Navy SEALS.
This technique involves inhaling, holding your breath, exhaling, and holding your breath again, each for an equal count of four.
It's called "box" breathing because each phase is equal, like the sides of a box.
2. Diaphragmatic or Belly Breathing
Place one hand on your chest and the other on your stomach.
Take a slow, deep breath in through your nose, letting your diaphragm (not your chest) inflate with enough air to create a stretch in your lungs.
Slowly exhale through your nose or mouth.
I have a sticky note on my computer that says, “Belly Breathe” because even just doing 2-3 of these through the day can bring down your anxiety/stress levels.
3. Heart Coherence Breathing
When we are stressed or anxious, our respiration rate, blood pressure, and heart rate can fall out of sync.
Heart coherence breathing can help align these 3 things into 1 coherent rhythm using your breath, which scientists call your “resonance frequency.”
I love it because it’s easy to do and objectively measurable by looking at your HRV, or the time in between each of your heartbeats.
The optimal respiration rate to achieve this state is about 5.5sec for each inhale & exhale.
I do this daily for 10mins in the morning, but it’s also a great one for before bed.
It’s as simple as laying down or sitting someplace quiet, and counting to 5 for each inhale and exhale.
Here are a couple of guided videos I use as well:
4. Physiological Sighing
This technique has been made famous by Dr. Andrew Huberman and his lab!
He has found that it can help to:
Reduce stress & anxiety
Increase focus and attention
The physiological sigh works by increasing the amount of carbon dioxide in the blood. This has a number of beneficial effects on the brain.
It is a pattern of breathing in which two inhales through the nose are followed by an extended exhale through the mouth.
The first breath is almost to capacity, followed by one quicker nasal inhale that further pops open the air sacks in the lungs.
Here’s a video where he demonstrates it: Physiological Sigh Demo
5. Guided Breathing w/ CalmiGo
CalmiGo is a scientifically-backed, drug-free device I use and recommend for anxiety reduction.
It applies three techniques to activate your body's innate calming systems:
Adaptive Breathing Regulation: CalmiGo tailors its operation to your unique breathing rhythms, encouraging slower, more rhythmic breaths. This disengages your SNS and HPA Axis while activating your PSNS, thereby reducing anxiety.
Sensory Stimulation: CalmiGo employs multisensory stimuli as a grounding technique. Visual, olfactory, tactile, and auditory stimulation from the device keeps you present, helps regulate your breathing, and interrupts anxiety or panic cycles.
Aromatherapy: CalmiGo leverages aromatherapy principles, delivering soothing scents like lavender. This technique taps into the direct connection between our olfactory and limbic systems, stimulating the parasympathetic nervous system to alleviate stress and anxiety.
3 in 1 Solution
I use CalmiGo before public speaking, after intense coaching calls, after my workouts to calm back down, and much more.
It for sure has my stamp of approval, and if you’d like to get one, they’re letting me give you $30 off!
Just use the code: MBBLab
I believe CalmiGo is a testament to the power of applied neuroscience, which as you know, is what I spend most of my life doing!
While these techniques might seem simple, they can be powerful tools in managing your anxiety.
Remember, it's always essential to reach out to a mental health professional if you feel your anxiety is overwhelming.
And be patient with yourself; it takes time to learn new coping techniques.
The journey to healing is not a straight line, but every step you take, even the smallest one, is a step towards a healthier, happier you.
Until next time… Live Heroically 🧠
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