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Belly Breathing Strategies

Post by Hidayat Shah, NAMI Chicago Ambassador

"If you’ve ever had racing thoughts or a sudden pounding of your heart, you know what it is like when rush of anxiety or nervousness takes over - the shortness of breath, and the chest pains that come with it.

That’s exactly what I experienced for a long time until I learned how to belly breathe, and since then it has been a huge life changer for me.

Feeling like “I can’t catch my breath!” is a common symptom of anxiety disorders. You feel like you have to work to breathe and still feel short of breath, and the harder you try, the worse it feels.

I would always be told to “take a deep breath,” but that never helped me much. It's good advice, but it leaves out an important step, and that is: before you take a deep breath, you have to let one out.

All those other times I was deep breathing without first letting out an exhale. I was putting more pressure on my chest, which was causing more pain and more shallow breathing.

I was getting chest pains because I was breathing with my chest instead of my belly, and that’s a mistake a lot of us make without even realizing it.

You can give belly breathing a try with the steps written in this post. You can do it either sitting up, or lying down, just find a comfortable position and follow the steps!

Here’s a few tips:

When I first started belly breathing, I found a great relief in it, but over time I found myself belly breathing as if it were my normal breath.

Remember, this is an exercise. Your body needs a break from breathing exercises just like how you give it a break during physical exercise.

Let your hands be the guide. You want all the movements to be happening at your stomach. Your upper body should be relatively still.

After your inhale, try pausing for a second or two. Everyone counts at a different rate, so you decide how long to hold the breath."

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