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The 6 Basics of Abdominal Breathing for Anxiety Management

It is clear that respiration is essential for the maintenance and survival of the organism human, but many people tend to overlook the implications of this in our state emotional. Not surprisingly, several of the techniques and strategies used in psychotherapy involve conscious control of how we breathe.

In this sense, abdominal breathing is one of the most important variants to learn to regulate how we think and feel. And specifically, it helps to achieve a state of relaxation and to mitigate anxiety. In this article we are going to focus on it, but first, we will review the main types of breathing.

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The most important types of breathing

Before entering the keys to abdominal breathing, it is necessary to see a little more in depth the types of breathing that there are. Mainly, we can consider that there are three different types of ways of breathing.

1. Abdominal or diaphragmatic breathing

Abdominal breathing is one in which there is a significant movement of the diaphragm, a muscle that separates the thoracic cavity from the belly

and it acts as a dock. During breathing, the diaphragm goes down towards the belly, air is sucked into the lungs, and when this muscle rises, air is expelled outwards. That is, it acts as a kind of plunger pressing the lower part of the lungs and causing the air to rise in the direction of the windpipe.

This type of breathing is believed to help harness lung capacity and efficiently oxygenate cells in the body.

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2. Chest breathing

Chest breathing is one in which there is opening and closing of the rib cage. This breathing modality causes relaxation if it is done in a directed way, but it takes advantage of both lung and abdominal capacity.

3. Clavicular breathing

Clavicular breathing is done in the highest part of the chest and, as a result, it causes the clavicles to rise. This is the typical breathing of states of anxiety and nervousness, being very shallow and inefficient, because with each breath of air little blood is oxygenated.

When performing this type of muscle movement, little air enters the lungs, making it necessary to take many breaths in a row to oxygenate properly. And since little oxygen is inspired, little oxygen reaches the brain and a state of "alert" can occur because the body is in a situation of vulnerability. Thus, it is both a (partial) cause and a consequence of anxiety.

Diaphragmatic breathing
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The basics of abdominal breathing

These are the key guidelines and ideas to keep in mind to carry out abdominal breathing.

1. Start learning in a context that makes it easy for you

If you are starting to practice abdominal breathing, do your best to make it easy for yourself, since starting from 0 is already a challenge in itself. Go to a quiet place, without distractions and that offers you privacy. Otherwise, you will have a better chance of being frustrated or frustrated, and that will demotivate you.

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2. Make sure the belly expands more than the chest

A very easy and intuitive way to know if you are doing abdominal breathing well is to put one hand on your chest and the other on your belly. If they both move more or less the same, you are doing it wrong. Ideally, the belly hand should move much more and that the chest just does it.

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3. Quality matters more than quantity

Make sure each cycle of inhale and exhale occurs slowly but surely, dedicating dedication to each one. Allow several seconds to pass both during the entry of air and during the process of its exit.

4. Rhythm is more important than strength

Some people make the mistake of trying to carry out abdominal breathing by forcing the capacity of the lungs, until they reach a point where they feel discomfort from the tension generated in their muscles and tissues in general. But this not only produces totally unnecessary displeasure, but also works against the most important aspect of a good way of breathing: the fact of maintaining a constant and consistent rhythm.

5. The lungs expand in all directions

Keep in mind that although we notice the phases of breathing especially in the front part of our trunk, the lungs do not expand only towards the front, but they do so in all the addresses; the only thing that happens is that we have more soft tissues in the ventral part.

That is why, when carrying out abdominal breathing, you must allow them to also expand to the sides and in the lower part of your back. Many people are surprised to learn that if they take deep breaths with the diaphragm, they notice how the part of the kidneys "inflates".

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6. Don't get obsessed with always breathing like this

It is normal that in your day to day you go through different types of breathing. No one can control the way you breathe at all times, since that would be exhausting and would imply a significant effort at the cost of neglecting other aspects important aspects of life (in addition to the fact that, paradoxically, this perfectionism would make us prone to anxiety).

Keep in mind that if we breathe automatically and anxiety predisposes us to breathe in a certain way, it is not by chance; there are survival mechanisms behind that, which have been carved out over hundreds of thousands of years of natural selection. The objective should be to intervene in your breathing especially in key moments in which you notice that anxiety is not helping you, but is an obstacle.

Do you want to have professional psychological support?

If you are interested in having psychological assistance, please contact me. I am an expert psychologist in the cognitive-behavioral model, and I attend in person and online.

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