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How to Instantly Relieve Anxiety

breath-in-1478507Things have been a little rough for me lately, I’ve faced some stress with some personal family stuff, work stuff and relationship stuff, and though that always seems to be the case for pretty much everybody, there have been times where I was so nervous that it was hard for me to concentrate.

I was in a spell like that last week where I hadn’t heard from a girl I liked and that was the cherry on top of an already confounded cake of stress.

I had a pounding headache, my breath was short and I could feel the tightening screw of my nerves cranking in my chest.

In that moment though I decided to do something different, I decided to try to breathe deeply.

There are numerous new age, yoga-ish articles and studies out there that talk about the instant relief of breathing deeply and centering yourself but I never really paid attention to any of it because I either though it was some quacky alternative healing stuff or it just didn’t seem like it could fully do the trick of relieving something as monstrous as anxiety. It just didn’t seem like it could actually work.

Anyway, I was sitting there working myself up about stuff, checking my phone every ten seconds for any text or indication on a social network that she was still alive and I caught myself in that moment and realized that the whole thing was ridiculous and I shouldn’t be getting this worked up over something so stupid and insignificant.

For some reason I decided to take a deep breath, maybe it was the years of absorbing pop-psychology tips and techniques that told me to do it, but after three or four long prolonged breaths, my headache had all but faded and the knot in my chest had disappeared.

After those few breaths, the thing I was so obsessed and focused on came into view as a stupid little blip. There was essentially no reason for me to be worrying this much about not hearing back from a girl and that notion popped into my brain after the flood of anxiety had drained slowly out through my use of deep breathing.

It’s amazing what it can do in the moment to calm you down from anxiety.

It was like an instant difference and I don’t think I’ll ever take the practice of deep breathing for granted. Maybe I’ll even try yoga at some point since everyone seems to be raving about that too.

I’m in no way a doctor though and I can’t speak to the efficacy of the long term practice of deep breathing. I do know that it works incredibly well in the heat of the moment though and if you and I can just remember to do it when we feel that anxiety coming on I’m sure we’ll both be better for it.

Suffice it to say, I was skeptical but it really does seem to work and for someone with a major mental illness like schizophrenia I’m sure a regular practice of breathing and something like cognitive behavioral therapy can work wonders.

It’s a shame I never gave any credence to it before but now that I know it works I’ll likely be employing it as a regular routine when things get a little dicey.

The point of all this to have tools in your anxiety toolbox and deep breathing is a great tool to have.

How to Instantly Relieve Anxiety

Michael Hedrick

Michael Hedrick is a writer and photographer who has lived with schizophrenia since he was 20. His work has been featured in Salon, The Week, Scientific American and The New York Times. You can purchase his book 'Connections' here or Follow his blog on Living with Schizophrenia here.

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APA Reference
Hedrick, M. (2015). How to Instantly Relieve Anxiety. Psych Central. Retrieved on August 9, 2020, from


Last updated: 7 Nov 2015
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