But what if you’re anxious about something that you can’t fight or flee from? Then, your quicker-than-usual rate of breathing becomes an annoyance at the least — and a panic trigger at worst.
Perhaps you’ve read about abdominal breathing in Edmund J. Bourne’s classic text, The Anxiety and Phobia Workbook. Breathing retraining can help with panic and anxiety symptoms, he notes — and I agree. It can.
But perhaps, like me, you absolutely hated his 5/5/5 “Calming Breath Exercise” because, let’s face it, fellow panickers: holding your breath for 5 seconds between inhale & exhale is…uncomfortable, to say the least. Right? My body hates it!
For me, it raises my heart rate, and I still can’t quite understand why it’s so often recommended.
So, what else can we do?Well, there’s that whole “7/11 breathing” thing I keep seeing on the internet here and there. Inhale for 7 seconds, exhale for 11 seconds. It’s nice in theory — and according to many therapists I’ve seen during my ten-year tenure with panic disorder , it is better to make your exhalations longer than your inhalations.
But 7 seconds of inhaling and 11 seconds of exhaling? That just feels…weird. It feels wrong for me. The timing’s not right. And either way, who wants to stare at a clock while breathing?
I sure don’t. It just feels so…medical. It calls forth images of nurses taking my pulse or my blood pressure — like I’m being tested for a problem instead of trying to hack my way to a solution.
It’s so simple: you just stare at the screen while breathing, and you can customize the app’s parameters to speed up or slow down the inhale/exhale indicator to your liking.
You can also change the color of the background, implement a between-breath pause if you’d like, and toggle between a numerical counter and a (more soothing, in my opinion) circular indicator. It also counts how long you’ve been practicing.
For me personally, I find that 5/9 breathing works best. Play around and see what ratio feels right to you — and let me know in the comments!
Major hat tip to my beloved /r/anxiety community on Reddit for bringing my attention to this. I’ll be playing around with it all weekend!
Photo: Hey Paul Studios (Flickr)