Anxiety 101: Breathing Techniques and Meditation

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ROANOKE, Va. (WFXR) — This is the second part of a month-long series called “Anxiety 101”. As part of “Mental Health Awareness Month,” WFXR sportscaster and reporter David DeGuzman shares his experience with anxiety and what he’s learned along the way. Join him for a special live discussion on mental health Mondays at 11 a.m. EST on WFXR’s Facebook page throughout May.

Hi! Welcome and thank you for taking the time to anxiously read about my background. I hope this helps you find ways to deal with your anxious thoughts and, at the very least, feel less alone in dealing with anxiety.

Last time I gave a little introduction to my experience with anxiety and panic attacks. From now on we will discuss the solutions and tools that I have learned along the way that have helped me, starting with breathing and meditation.

It should also be noted that, as I mentioned before, I am neither a doctor nor a mental health professional. This is all based on my personal experience.

Breathing Box

Whenever I feel anxious, I go back to my breathing. Sometimes my heart races or I have heart palpitations. When this happens, I take a few deep breaths to help me calm down.

One technique that helps is called box breathing. It’s when you inhale for four seconds, hold for four seconds, and then exhale for four seconds. Doing this at least four times helps me feel better and motivates me.

When you inhale, you want to feel your chest fill with air and your stomach heave. As you exhale, feel these muscles soften. If you want to go deeper, exhale longer than you inhale (six seconds instead of four seconds). You will notice that your heart rate begins to slow down and as a result you will feel calmer.

Guided meditation

Meditation is a great way to take time for yourself, slow down, and break the pattern of anxious thoughts that seem to be spiraling through your head. Ideally, I would meditate every day, but in reality, I do it one to three times a week. But I find that the more I meditate and incorporate it into my daily routine, the better I am able to deal with anxiety.

First, start by finding a room or space where you won’t be disturbed. It could be a spot in your living room, bedroom, car, or even your bathroom.

Next, sit up straight and keep your eyes open, but with a soft focus. Then take a deep breath, inhaling through your nose and exhaling through your mouth. After three or four times, go ahead and close your eyes.

Then take note of the space around you using your other four senses. Feel the weight of your body against the surface of where you are sitting. Take note of the feet on the floor below you and your hands resting on your knees. Next, pay attention to the sounds around you and the smells you might smell.

Now is the time for a body scan. Starting at the top of the head, move down and note any feelings or sensations. Do you feel heavy or light? Do you feel tension in your neck or shoulders? You don’t need to act on these feelings, just acknowledge them as you scan your body to the toes.

After the body scan, return to the breath. If it helps, place your hand on your belly or chest as you feel the inhale and the exhale. Count the breaths, one on the way up and two on the way down. Up to ten, then repeat. Let the thoughts come and go, and if you get distracted, take note, then start counting your breath again.

After a few minutes, let your mind wander. If he wants to think, let him think. Then, as you relax, use your senses to reacquaint yourself with your surroundings, as we did at the beginning. Smells and sounds. How your body feels against the seat or floor under you. Your hands on your legs.

Then, when you’re ready, go ahead, open your eyes and take in your surroundings. I hope you are feeling a little better and more grounded.

Useful apps

I use several apps to help me with meditation.

  • Head space: This widely used app offers hundreds of unique meditation lessons and meditations for everything from studying to exams to job interviews to finding happiness. It also helps you sleep better and offers exercises that can improve your mental health.
  • DARE: I use it when I feel particularly anxious or near panic. It guides you through an anxious situation by offering tips and tricks as well as positive affirmations to help you through a difficult time.
  • Sanvello: This app is kind of a “one stop shop” for dealing with anxiety. From guided meditations to group coaching sessions and different modules, there are many tools available in this app. It also offers virtual therapy sessions, which happens to be the subject of next week’s “Anxiety 101.”

Hopefully this will provide you with a starting point if you suffer from anxiety. Breathing gives me immediate relief from my anxious thoughts and feelings and meditation helps ground me and gives me space from my thoughts and feelings.

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