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How to Overcome Anxiety

I’d like to talk to you today about de-escalating anxiety. I know a lot of you out there are dealing with anxiety. It can come out of nowhere. I know it’s difficult, and sometimes you don’t know what triggers it. There’s a lot to unpack about anxiety. I encourage you to work with a holistic practitioner to get to the root cause of yours. 

Master Breathing

Something you can do very simply, is to master breathing. A lot of us, when we’re triggered, get an anxiety response from our body. One of the first things we do as a coping mechanism is we start to breathe really shallowly, and if you ever notice somebody going through challenging times, maybe going through grief or going through an anxiety episode you’ll notice you almost don’t see their neck, their ear and their shoulder will be almost touching. That’s what’s called sympathetic dominance type mode. It is your fight, flight or freeze response,  your body is trying to prepare itself for stress. So it’s going to tend to shorten your breathing. I want you to be really self aware. I have a lot of empathy for you. I know it’s not easy. I’ve been through it myself many times, many years. But I want you to start being self aware. If you notice, your breathing rate goes up, your shoulders creeping up towards your ears, be self aware of that, to recognize that, and simply pull your shoulders out of your ears. That’s step one. I know it seems overly simplistic, but trust me, your brain knows this as “Oh, crap mode.” So get out of “oh, crap mode”.  Pull your shoulder blades down. 

Next thing I want you to do is put a hand on your belly. And I want you to start to inhale with your belly really deep. Go through your nose. So take a big draw through your nose. Fill up your belly first. Now don’t just belly breathe, that’s just where we want to start. Then let the breath expand into the chest wall. Okay, this takes practice. So be kind to yourself. It’s okay. But start to take that deep belly breath with your shoulders down. I want you to work on inhaling for four to six seconds, that just depends on how much lung capacity you have and how good you are at this breathing technique. Work on inhaling four to six seconds. I want you to hold your breath, that’s big. When we hold our breath. We’re telling our brain “I’m okay I got this. Like I’m in control because you’re telling it to start the breathing process, in and out. Next thing you’re gonna do is exhale slowly. Now you can exhale out of your mouth or nose, whatever works for you. I tend to like to go into my nose and out through my nose just to calm me down faster. So then you’re going to exhale for eight to ten seconds even longer if you can. I know it seems like an eternity when you’re breathing like this and your anxieties are running your heart rate up. 

I know it’s gonna seem like a long time. Again, be kind to yourself. Work on this, it’s a work in progress, right? But be self aware when you get triggered. Start to get those shoulders down. Start breathing with your belly. Inhale four to six seconds hold at least two or three seconds. Exhale slowly for eight to ten seconds. 

Whenever you feel like you just got a lot going on, your mind is racing, your mind is in a loop. You can then tell the brain I’m back in control, you actually start to invoke the parasympathetic nervous system which is rest and digest. That’s gonna be slowing things down. Saying: “I’m okay.” Unless you’re actually running for your life, literally running for your life from actual physical danger. You have to remind the brain “I’m okay right now”.  Most of our anxiety is from psychological triggers that are not physically going to hurt us. Most of those things are not going to physically hurt us even though they can be emotionally difficult. So remind the brain, “I’m okay. I can get through this.” It’s really powerful. Once you start to embody this type of technique you’ll know that you’re going to make it through the situation. It can’t necessarily fix the situation, but we can work on your response to it. That’s what you’re working on.

So next time you get anxiety, try this technique. Get those shoulders down. Start breathing with your belly and slow that respiration. You’ll notice it only takes about a minute. You will be calmer, your heart rate will go down and it’s been proven in lots of studies. Give that a shot and let me know how it goes.


Dr. Jason


Naturopathic doctor in Lansing, MI

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