Friday, November 07, 2008

Deep Breathing Exercises for Anxiety

Yesterday, when I got into my car to go to my pdoc appointment I began having an anxiety attack that lasted most of the way there. It disappeared only to breed another right before my appointment began.

The night before my appt I woke up around 1:15 having an anxiety attack; that feeling like I can't breathe, like someone huge is sitting on my chest and only little bits of oxygen are getting through. These anxiety attacks seem to last forever. What I do not understand is how, if I know they are not real, if I know they are psychological, why, when I know this, can's I get the damn attack to stop?

It seems the longer I have struggled with anxiety the more triggers for anxiety I have. To the point where I most often cannot explain what sets off my having an attack. Much of the time it seems the anxiety comes out of nowhere, for no reason. I have them when I am driving, but not always, sometimes when I am watching t.v, or when I am sitting in the waiting room chair before I see Dr. X, in the mall, at the grocery store, and basically in any place where there are lots of people, or where the space is large or looming.

All those things are not activities I don't want to do. I like to drive, I enjoy relaxing in front of the television, and I always look forward to seeing Dr. X, I used to love to shop, so I am not sure why those are common times for me to have anxiety.

I am having another right now, the third one today. The muscles in my shoulders and chest are tight. I have to consciously "talk" my shoulders down from their reaching towards my ears. I stretch my chest open by pulling my shoulder blades together, hoping more air will enter my lungs. I place my hands at chest level on the edge of the hall doorway and "walk through" until I feel my chest opening up. The attacks feel like my body is somehow suffocating itself. It is all for nought. My lungs feel like they are only able to fill part way.

I try to draw air down towards my belly through my nose. It's called Deep Breathing:

I work slowly to fill my lungs from the bottom up. I place my hands on my belly, the belly that women try to hide and no woman wants to make bigger than what's already there. If my belly becomes larger as I draw air into it I know I am doing the exercise right.

I visualize the air entering there first, at the bottom of my lungs, that area that rarely seems to receive the oxygen it begs to receive. I slowly breathe in past the top of my lungs, towards below my belly button. My already chubby belly extends as the air fills it. Like a balloon filling from the bottom up the air forces itself from the bottom region of my lungs into the upper regions.

When my lungs are full I hold the air in for a couple seconds and then slowly, through my mouth, I allow the air to escape in a reverse manner; air out of the top of my lungs first and leaving the bottom of my lungs last.

I wait a moment and start the process of deep breathing againg. I repeat 10-15 times. I breathe into my belly, again, and breathe out slowly, breathe in through my nose and out through my mouth.

It sometimes helps to calm my anxiety and stop my anxiety attacks from continuing. I have become so good at it I can do it sitting up. In my car as I drive, in my chair as I watch t.v., in the seat I wait in before my appointment with Dr. K.

I recommend you learn by laying down on a semi-hard flat surface. Often it works. It does however, sometimes increase my being conscious of my breathing even more than when I was having the original anxiety attack, which makes me more conscious of the trouble I am having breathing.

That's when I usually have a martini! (just kidding)

...sort of;>) ...cheers!


Lola Snow said...

Yikes! That's nasty of they come out of nowhere, like launching a surprise attack. Do you think it's because all those activities you switch onto autopilot? Like your mind wanders, even though you are concentrating part of the brain on something, the rest is off having a look see at what else is going on? It might explain why you can't work out what triggers them, if you are distracted by something else at the time?

Just a theory. I hope your technique continues to help you, and do not condone the use of martini (oh alright then, maybe I do, but PURELY for medicinal purposes - anxiety attacks and cuts and scapes ha ha!)

Aqua said...

Lola: Medicinal? I'll go with that...hee, hee. Dr. X said that my anxiety attacks original began with specific stimuli, but as time went on and I continued to have them they became trigger by more and more general stimuli. E.g. Maybe I have my first anxiety in my car worrying about something I have to do at work. Then a few of those later and the next time I get my car I begin having one simply because I'm going to work, and then a few more of those attacks and the second I get in my car to go anywhere I start having an anxiety attack, then they start when I go out the front door etc.

There originally WAS a trigger, but it began to take less and less to set an attack off.

Lola Snow said...

Ah, nothing to fear but fear itself? Yes, that makes a lot of sense.

Reece Prinn said...

Wow, thanks so much for writing this post. I have been dealing with this shallow breathing dilemma for years, and didn't know that anybody else experienced it the exact same way I do. There are so many unidentifiable triggers these days that I end up getting even worse trying to figure out the cause. The very worst part is being cognizant of each and every breath you take; as if breathing is a voluntary action for which one must plan carefully. It sounds like you are experiencing the same affliction as me, and I absolutely, categorically feel your pain. Nothing seems to work for me - not medication, not deep breathing, and not even meditation. I wish so badly it would go away; I cannot get to sleep at night because of my inability to breathe. Stop by my blog and leave me a comment if you have got any advice. I'd greatly appreciate it. Cheers.