Feeling anxious? Try this quick stress-busting breathing exercise

Moments of anxiety can lead to a ‘fight or flight’ response. This causes the body to release adrenaline, which can make us breathe more quickly and increase our heart rate. Rapid breathing can cause dizziness, which can, in turn, make anxiety worse.

So taking a moment to focus on slow, steady breathing can help reverse this response. We hardly ever think about how we breathe, which is surprising because breathing correctly and calmly can make a real difference to how we feel.

If you’re feeling anxious, try this very simple breathing exercise. Start by making yourself comfortable. If you’re at home it’s best to lie down or sit in a chair, but you can still do this on a bus or standing in a shopping queue.

Place your hand on your stomach and breathe in much more slowly than you normally do, counting a slow 1-2-3 as you breathe in. Hold your breath for a slow count of three, and then breathe out for a count of five. When you breathe in, feel your stomach rise. This means that you are breathing ‘abdominally’.

Remember to keep your hand on your stomach. Breathe in counting 1-2-3, and hold for 1-2-3, and breathe out for 1-2-3-4-5. If you feel comfortable, repeat this pattern five more times.

If you have time to relax for longer, increase the counts as you breathe in to 5, hold for 5 and then breathe out for up to 8 counts.

For more breathing and relaxation tips and exercises, download the My Possible Self app. It contains content that’s proven to help reduce stress and anxiety within eight weeks. Our brand new module, Breathing and Relaxation, teaches you some additional tips and techniques for tackling anxiety through relaxation exercises.