Ease Your Anxiety, One Breath at a Time

Returning to campus after the holidays can inspire a range of feelings, from joy and hopeful anticipation to sadness and outright dread. Thanks to the recent Omicron upsurge, health worries, remote classes, and ongoing social isolation could make this spring’s transition back to school harder than ever. To help yourself stay calm and grounded during challenging times, start with the most simple thing in life: Your breath.

Breath is a powerful tool. It can send a message to your brain (and the rest of your body) that it’s okay to relax, that you are safe, and you can let go of the “fight or flight” urges that are causing you to experience symptoms of anxiety. There are many ways you can call on your breath to increase your sense of peace and well-being. Give these methods a try the next time you need to find your calm center.

Deep Breathing

When we’re stressed, our breathing can become shallow and “caught up” in the chest. Deep breathing is an effective way to quickly release tension and calm your nervous system.

  • Take a deep breath, letting your abdomen expand. Sense your body filling with oxygen.
  • Hold this breath for 3 – 5 seconds.
  • Release the air all at once (in a sigh, or a slow, steady stream…whatever feels good).
  • Consciously release your shoulders and jaw as the breath leaves your body.

Conscious Breathing

When are minds are cluttered with stressful thoughts, our bodies become stressed, too. By focusing on our breath, we can calm our thoughts and create relaxation in the body.

  • Close your eyes, and focus your attention on the tip of your nose.
  • Breathe in slowly, noticing the sensations of the air drawing into your nose.
  • As you breathe out, notice the air passing through your nostrils and out of your body.
  • Repeat this several times. You might also add a simple “mantra”, such as “breathing in…breathing out…breathing in…breathing out…”, or “peace…calm…peace…calm.”

Counting Breaths

If having a mental pattern to follow increases your sense of ease, try 8-4-7 to create mindful breathing.

  • Exhale through your mouth to the count of 8, making a sound (a sigh, a low whistle, etc.).
  • Inhale quietly through your nose to the count of 4.
  • Hold your breath for a count of 7.
  • Repeat this cycle 4 times, ideally at least twice a day (or as often as you feel the need to quiet your mind and body).

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