Top Breathing Exercises to Help with Panic Attacks

All About Breathing Exercises to Help with Panic Attacks

Panic attacks can come at any time. If you are someone who experiences panic attacks either infrequently or frequently, you are likely aware of how breathing can play a role in worsening your attack. Panic attacks can result in feeling as if you cannot breathe or as if you are breathing underwater. This is typically why shallow breathing is a common symptom of a panic attack and anxiety in general.

Knowing this, it is easy to see why breathing exercises can play a critical role in helping not only reduce the regular occurrence of panic attacks but the severity of them as well. Highlighted below are some of the top breathing exercises that can help with panic attacks. But first, it’s important to provide an overview of what panic attacks are and what causes them.

What Causes Panic Attacks?

While you might feel as if you are alone in suffering from panic attacks, it is actually a very common issue impacting a lot of people throughout the entire world. In fact, in the U.S alone, over 18 percent of people 18 and over suffer from this panic attacks, making it the most common mental illness in the country.1

Essentially, panic attacks or anxiety attacks stem from worrying. It could be something very inconsequential or it can be a much larger issue that triggers this sort of attack. Once the body senses that you are afraid of something, it can trigger its natural stress response which brings on an onslaught of different events that can cause your nervous and endocrine systems to go haywire. It works to convince you and your body that you are in immediate danger even if you aren’t. It can cause you to experience shortness of breath or begin shallow breathing.

As a result, breathing exercises can help limit the overall severity of the panic attacks that one might experience. The truth is, your breathing and the way you breathe can have a dramatic impact on how you feel and how your body and mind react to stimuli. Improper breathing can not only cause an imbalance in oxygen and carbon dioxide exchange, which can have physical ramifications, but it can cause changes in the way your body reacts to stressors and other issues that can lead to panic attacks. By implementing proper breathing exercises, you should be able to decrease the occurrence and severity of panic attacks.

woman having panic attack

Top Breathing Exercises That Can Help with Panic Attacks

Abdominal Breathing

Abdominal breathing is one of the best exercises that you will be able to implement into your daily routine if you are looking for the best way to prevent panic attacks or limit overall intensity if they do begin. The entire purpose of abdominal breathing is to get your lungs to work harder and take in more oxygen. This not only provides your body with the benefit of having more oxygen to work with, but it also helps get you into a rhythm with your breathing, which can be therapeutic on its own.

Benefits Of Abdominal Breathing

Abdominal breathing comes with a host of benefits that can be very good for those who suffer from regular and reoccurring panic attacks. Not only does it help lower your heart rate, but it can help lower your blood pressure as well. Along with this, it can inherently help you relax and lower the impact that cortisol (the stress hormone) has on your entire body.

Also, it is going to allow you to better learn to control your breathing in order to help you deal with future panic attacks that you might experience. By engaging in this type of breathing exercise, you should be able to sustain better control over your breathing, which can trick your body back into a state of relaxation and reduce the fight or flight response that was triggered.

Abdominal Breathing Basics

If you’re looking to incorporate this highly effective breathing exercise into your routine, you’ll want to sit in a comfortable position and place a hand on your stomach and the other hand on your chest. That way, you’ll be able to feel your abdominal section fill with oxygen as you take in a deep breath. You will then breathe directly through your nostrils for two to three seconds. You want your stomach to continue to expand while your chest remains still. That is the indication that you are completing the breathing exercise properly. Then, you will purse your lips and press down on your abdominal section and exhale very slowly for two to three seconds. You will then want to repeat the steps for around five times, or as needed.

Alternate Nostril Breathing

You want to find breathing techniques that can help you relax and focus on your breath. Perhaps none are better at doing such a thing like alternate nostril breathing. Alternate nostril breathing is one of the best breathing practices that you can implement in your routine if you want to beat anxiety and panic attacks, primarily because it forces you to focus on the breathing patterns and rhythm. Thus, it can be great for those who are looking to relax the entire body and calm the mind.

Benefits of Alternate Nostril Breathing

Alternate nostril breathing is a breathing exercise that comes with numerous benefits. Not only has it been shown to be effective for reducing stress levels throughout the body, but it has also been shown to improve overall lung function as well.2 Along with this, it has been shown to help lower heart rate, which can help keep your body from sustaining a fight or flight state.

Alternate Nostril Breathing Basics

To perform this type of breathing exercise, you will want to sit in a comfortable position upright. Then, place your left hand on the corresponding knee. Use your right thumb on the same hand to close your entire right nostril. Breathe in through your left nostril. Once you have inhaled, you should close your left nostril with the fingers that are next to that nostril.

Then, open the right nostril by letting go of your thumb and exhale through the right nostril. You will then inhale directly through the right nostril and close it and then open your left nostril and exhale through it. Repeat the cycle for a long enough period lasting anywhere from three to five minutes in length.

Controlled Breathing Practice

Whenever you are experiencing a lot of anxiety or panic, you are going to want to implement the controlled breathing technique. This technique works to slow down your heart rate and really help put your body in a sufficient state of relaxation. The technique is designed to trick your body and mind into thinking that it is fully calm.

Benefits of Controlled Breathing

Controlled breathing is meant to help you divert your focus from whatever is causing the initial onset of panic to your breathing. To implement this technique, you are required to focus completely on your breathing cycles. Therefore, it is not going to give you any room to focus on anything else that might be causing your panic symptoms.

Controlled Breathing Basics

To implement this breathing practice, sit somewhere comfortable where you are able to feel fully relaxed. Then, close your eyes and try to relax your mouth. Inhale for a full two to three seconds and hold your breath for two seconds. You will then exhale for a count of four seconds.

You can begin to work your way up to higher counts on both your inhale or exhale as you become accustomed to the technique. By doing this, you will be able to trick your body and mind into a complete state of relaxation where you will be able to fully calm your body and mind to the point where your panic attack weakens. Controlled breathing can be very powerful in its ability to help put your body and mind into a complete state of relaxation.


Panic attacks are something that many people have to deal with. Luckily, they are highly preventable or can be remedied. The bad news is a lot of those who suffer from regular panic attacks don’t seek out treatment. However, one of the best ways to remedy panic attacks is to prevent them in the first place.

By implementing effective breathing practice in your daily life, you should be able to better prevent the attacks from ever occurring in the first place. Try pairing any of these breathing exercises with topical or aromatic use of essential oils. Zen is a great relaxing and portable option. While you might not be able to completely stop them, with the proper breathing practice implementation, you should be able to limit the occurrence of panic attacks and reduce the overall severity of the attacks as well.

Photo credits: Chinnapong/, fizkes/

Savannah W.

By Savannah Wilson

Savannah is an aromatherapy enthusiast who takes pride in knowing everything about essential oils, from ylang-ylang to chamomile. When taking a break from learning more about essential oils, Savannah likes to spend her time reading books or working out.

Favorite MONQ blend: Sexy

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The above information relates to studies of specific individual essential oil ingredients, some of which are used in the essential oil blends for various MONQ diffusers. Please note, however, that while individual ingredients may have been shown to exhibit certain independent effects when used alone, the specific blends of ingredients contained in MONQ diffusers have not been tested. No specific claims are being made that use of any MONQ diffusers will lead to any of the effects discussed above.  Additionally, please note that MONQ diffusers have not been reviewed or approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. MONQ diffusers are not intended to be used in the diagnosis, cure, mitigation, prevention, or treatment of any disease or medical condition. If you have a health condition or concern, please consult a physician or your alternative health care provider prior to using MONQ diffusers. MONQ blends should not be inhaled into the lungs.

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