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Why Breathing Exercises Don’t Work… (Without This Information First)

Let me guess – You’ve gone to the old Google machine and typed in “how to get rid of anxiety” only to find a whole bunch of articles and blogs containing breathing exercises. Let me also guess that you’ve tried breathing exercises before, but found them unsuccessful in helping you get rid of your anxiety. 

You must be feeling real frustrated right now.

First of all, I want you to know that you are not alone. A lot of people feel like breathing exercises do not work for them. And while that truly is the case sometimes (after all, not all interventions work for every person), a lot of people enter into the practice with unrealistic expectations to no fault of their own. After all, anxiety is a super uncomfortable experience so our first instinct is to make it go away.  So, shouldn’t breathing exercises do just that and take away the uncomfortable feeling? 

Well, my friends, here’s what you need to know before getting your breathing exercise on: 

  1. As previously stated, breathing exercises are not for everyone, and it is okay if it is truly not for you. You know yourself better than anyone, so honour what your body and mind are telling you. With that being said, it is important to give breathing exercises a solid try. We are talking at least several weeks/months of regular practice before giving up on them altogether. Healing and learning take time, so be open to the process;
  2. it is important to keep your expectations realistic when it comes to implementing a breathing practice. These exercises are not designed to make anxiety go away… or any other challenging thought, feeling, or sensation for that matter. While this practice may decrease the intensity of these challenging experiences, sometimes it won’t, and that’s okay too;
  3. it is essential to practice whatever breathing exercises you decide to implement when you are calm and not just when you are anxious or feeling some type of way. This is important because it is near impossible to learn a new skill when you are in fight-flight-freeze-fawn mode and focused on survival. Trust me, this is a built-in “stay alive” mechanism and you should thank your body and mind for this feature. Afterall, you don’t have time to stop and learn a new skill if you are being chased by a grizzly bear; and,
  4. it is not always possible to use a fancy breathing exercise in every situation. Some exercises are legit too fancy to be functional all the time – take example a breathing exercise that requires a lot of space and movement. While that might be great if you are outside or in the comfort of your home, it might be less ideal in the middle of a business meeting. With this in mind, it is important to have a few breathing exercises up your sleeve so that you have a few options to choose from.

I hope this has been helpful to dispel all of the hype around breathing exercises. Let me know your thoughts below and stay tuned for my next blog that includes some of my favourite breathing exercises.