Anxiety is something that can occur at just about any given moment. While occasional anxiety is something that is expected to be a part of your life, those that experience it frequently might be suffering from some sort of disorder. There are various kinds of anxiety disorders including panic disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, and even phobia disorders that can induce anxiety in anyone that has them. Anxiety is a normal response to heightened cortisol levels in the body. Those that experience generalized and/or regular anxiety attacks typically have a much lower cortisol recovery response rate.1
What Causes Anxiety?
There are all kinds of things that can cause or trigger anxiety in certain individuals. Below, we will be going over some of the top triggers for anxiety.
One of the biggest contributors to anxiety is the consumption of caffeine. Studies have shown that caffeine consumption can be closely linked to a worsening of anxiety symptoms in those that suffer from a type of anxiety disorder already.2 In fact, these studies have even shown that the high intake of caffeine can also be linked to increasing the risk factor associated with experiencing anxiety.3 As a result, if you are someone that experiences a lot of anxiety or anxiety symptoms, you might notice an improvement if you cut caffeine out of your life. While this is no guarantee, the studies conclude that caffeine is typically a detriment to those that suffer from anxiety.
Not Eating Frequently Enough
Another major contributor to experiencing symptoms of anxiety or anxiety itself would be skipping meals too frequently. Skipping meals can lead to a dramatic drop in blood sugar levels. If you are someone that skips meals, you might experience drops in blood sugar levels which can swing your hormones and trigger anxiety. Therefore, if you are experiencing anxiety frequently as a direct result of experiencing drops in blood sugar levels, you might notice a significant improvement by getting in meals much more frequently throughout the day.
Another big thing that can trigger the onset of anxiety is elevated stress levels. Those that are experiencing stress for whatever reason are likely to experience heightened levels of anxiety. No matter what your stress is related to, it can cause anxiety. Because of this, you are going to want to manage your stress levels as best as possible to avoid it from inducing anxiety attacks.
Now that we have discussed some of the key triggers for anxiety, we will be going over how breathing can impact your anxiety and some of the top breathing exercises for anxiety.
How Can Breathing Impact Your Anxiety?
It is important to understand how breathing can impact your anxiety and why it is so important to breathe properly in order to manage it. While it might be hard to believe that breathing can play such a critical role in managing our anxiety, it is one of the most important things to practice to control your anxiety levels. If you pay close attention to your psychological reactions to anxiety attacks, you will likely notice that you begin hyperventilating. In fact, over 60% of panic attacks are accompanied by hyperventilation.4 Unfortunately, this type of breathing can exacerbate feelings of anxiety because it can cause a chemical imbalance in the brain. By effectively implementing specific breathing techniques for anxiety, you can reverse hyperventilation and hopefully quell the negative symptoms that accompany it.
Top Breathing Exercise For Anxiety:
CART Breathing or Capnometry-Assisted Respiratory Training
One of the biggest misconceptions about targeting anxiety with breathing is the fact that you are short of oxygen. Many assume that anxiety-induced hyperventilation is caused by a lack of oxygen because you feel a ‘shortness of breath.’ However, the opposite is true. Hyperventilation caused by anxiety is actually a direct result of having too much CO2. Thus, the best way to minimize the negative consequences that stem from a panic attack is by normalizing your CO2 levels as best as possible. The best way to do this is by implementing the CART breathing method, as it has been shown to be one of the best ways to normalize CO2 levels in the body.5 One of the reasons for the method is due to the fact that a majority of those who suffer from panic attacks have a directly associated fear of the physical symptoms that occur during the attacks. Many fear the symptoms of being dizzy or having shortness of breath. Thus, this breathing technique is able to directly quell these fears by normalizing respiratory physiology associated with it. In a sense, it helps to ‘trick’ your nervous system into a parasympathetic state rather than a sympathetic state which further helps the symptoms of anxiety.
How To Do It:
Because CART therapy requires specific equipment, you will need to improvise to experience all of the benefits that it can offer. If you want to implement the method associated with CART breathing, you will want to begin implementing the shallow breathing technique. While you might feel as though you need to breathe deeply to get yourself out of a panic attack, it is only going to worsen the issue. Taking deep breaths can actually worsen both hyperventilation and its symptoms.6 As noted previously, your primary goal is to normalize CO2 levels. The best way to do this is by implementing a shallow breathing technique that is going to help decrease excess CO2 levels which can help to minimize the physiological ‘fight or flight’ response associated with the feeling of not having enough air.
Shallow Breathing Tips:
Breathe Through Your Nose
By breathing through your nose, you are going to be able to sustain a shallow breathing technique much easier.
Avoid Breathing Deeply
While you might want to do this, avoid the temptation to breathe deeply. While it will supply you with more oxygen, it is not going to do anything to minimize the associated symptoms of anxiety, because it will add more CO2 when your goal is to decrease it.
Take More Breaths
You want to try to take more breaths than you would normally take on average. This can keep you from breathing too deeply.
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The best way to stave off anxiety is by implementing shallow breathing techniques. By doing this, you are going to be able to directly minimize the negative symptoms that stem from anxiety. While your body might be telling you that it needs more oxygen, it really needs less CO2. Having heightened levels of CO2 in your body can trick your mind into thinking that it’s short on breath. Thus, by effectively decreasing CO2 levels to a normal level, you will be able to trick your mind into a much more relaxed state, decreasing your anxiety symptoms and response.
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