For many years I had heard about how breathing techniques and exercises could help manage anxiety, but had never really given it much thought let alone committed to trying it. I had kind of fobbed it off I guess.
Thinking back, I guess it was learning yoga that started my understanding of how important the breath is. When I started yoga about 4 years ago I jumped straight into Ashtanga yoga which is based on synchronising the breath with yoga poses. At the time I had no idea what the different types of yoga were, and I didn't consciously choose Ashtanga yoga.
I was a complete novice, but after a few weeks I started to understand the poses and control my breath. Outside of classes I was also taking time to focus on my breath, breathing deep into my belly and extending my inhale and exhale from a count of 4 initially and eventually a count of 7.
Some mornings I would lay in bed dreading having to get up and start the day. On these days I would take 5 mins to focus on my breath, with the counting taking my mind of the anxious thoughts.
Initially I had to really focus on my breath and doing breathing exercises, but before long I found myself doing them in the car, while out walking, relaxing in the evening, and always during my yoga practice (which I try to do most mornings to start the day).
Slow breathing reduces anxiety as it signals to the body that you are in a safe environment. Through slowing the breath you slow down your heart rate and calm your body's fight or flight response system which helps minimise the release of chemicals in the body which bring on anxiety.
If you would like to try some breathing exercises here are some instructions from Anxiety Australia I found really useful.