Breathing exercises, backed by psychological research, can help you manage stress and anxiety and restore calm.
By adopting techniques such as diaphragmatic breathing, you can improve your ability to relax and strengthen your ability to support those in need.
What is anxiety from a psychoanalytic perspective
From a psychoanalytic perspective, anxiety is often examined through unconscious processes and the interaction of various psychological dynamics. According to psychoanalytic theory, worry can be seen as a manifestation of underlying concerns rooted in the unconscious. Sigmund Freud, the founder of psychoanalysis, suggested that anxiety can arise from unresolved conflicts and repressed thoughts or feelings.
These concerns may be linked to early childhood experiences or to unconscious fears related to fundamental aspects of human existence, such as mortality or personal inadequacy. Psychoanalytic exploration of anxiety involves penetrating the layers of the psyche to uncover hidden fears and conflicts, with the goal of bringing them to conscious awareness for better understanding and resolution.
By exploring the unconscious roots of worry, individuals undergoing therapy can gain insight into the origin of their worries, facilitating a deeper and more comprehensive approach to dealing with and alleviating worry.
Anxiety is a pervasive and often intrusive emotion arising from a sense of tension and anxiety about future uncertainties. It manifests as a mental state characterized by persistent thoughts and worries, often revolving around possible negative outcomes or unpredictable challenges.
Anxiety can be triggered by a number of factors, such as impending deadlines, personal relationships, or external events beyond one’s control. This emotional reaction tends to be accompanied by physical sensations such as tension and a heightened state of alertness. While some degree of worry is a natural part of the human experience, excessive or chronic worry can lead to anxiety and negatively affect a person’s overall health.
Effects of worry
Dealing with persistent worry or discomfort can significantly disrupt your daily life, which signals that it’s time to address the worry. When you’re constantly plagued by feelings of anxiety, it’s not just your peace of mind that’s affected.
Your body’s response to stress is in hyperarousal, which can lead to a host of physical symptoms. You may notice changes in your appetite, difficulty sleeping, or even a tendency to become socially withdrawn.
These reactions aren’t just unpleasant—they’re signals from your body that something is out of balance. Seeking guidance from a mental health professional can make a difference. They are equipped to help you understand the roots of your anxiety and develop personalized coping strategies. Remember, taking care of your mental well-being isn’t selfish—it’s a necessary step in continuing to serve others with the compassion and energy they deserve.
The science of breathing
Deep breathing exercises promote heart rate variability, i.e. the time variation between each heartbeat. The higher rate is associated with better cardiovascular fitness and a resilient stress response system. By practicing breathing techniques, you can increase it, helping your body deal with stress more effectively.
Cyclic sighing, for example, involves taking a breath in two stages—first a normal breath, then a smaller breath—before slowly exhaling. This simple practice can be highly effective for your mental health as it encourages a full exchange of oxygen and stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system, leading to a calm state of mind.
Diaphragmatic breathing technique
Diaphragmatic breathing, a technique that involves taking deep abdominal breaths, can significantly reduce your anxiety and promote relaxation. When you practice this type of breathing, you tap into your body’s innate ability to calm down and find balance.
To start, find a quiet place where you can sit or lie comfortably. Place one hand on your belly and the other on your chest. As you inhale slowly through your nose, your belly should expand more than your chest. This ensures that you activate the diaphragm properly and allows you to fully fill your lungs with air. With each exhalation, your hand on your abdomen will lower, signaling the release of tension.
Incorporating diaphragmatic breathing into your daily routine can help you maintain a state of calm, even in the midst of a hectic environment.
Box breathing or square breathing
Building on the relaxation offered by diaphragmatic breathing, you can further relieve your stress by mastering box breathing, an exercise that is both simple and effective. This technique, which involves a rhythmic pattern of inhaling, holding, exhaling and holding your breath, is designed to calm your nervous system and provide a respite from the waves of anxiety and stress that may be overwhelming you.
First, find a comfortable and quiet place where you can sit or lie down without interruption. Start by inhaling through your nose to a slow count of four, letting the air fill your lungs completely. Hold your breath for another count of four, then exhale gently through your mouth for the same count of four seconds.
Complete the cycle by holding your breath again for four seconds. The structured nature of boxed breathing helps you focus on the rhythm of your breathing, shifting your attention away from stressful thoughts.
Benefits of alternating breathing
You’ll find that alternating breathing, a practice rooted in yoga, not only relieves stress, but also enhances your focus and lowers blood pressure. When you’re feeling stressed or overwhelmed, this technique can be a haven of calm.
By alternating breathing from each nostril, you encourage balance in your nervous system, reducing symptoms of anxiety and creating a sense of calm.
Practicing this form of breathing doesn’t just calm your immediate worries—it contributes to long-term well-being. With continued practice, you can lower your blood pressure while increasing your ability to focus during challenging situations. This makes alternating breathing an invaluable tool.
Pursed lip breathing
Various breathing techniques can help relieve stress, but pursed-lip breathing is particularly effective for both immediate relief and long-term respiratory benefits. This simple technique is a godsend for those suffering from lung conditions such as emphysema or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, as it can significantly reduce shortness of breath, the painful feeling of shortness of breath that often accompanies these conditions.
It is a focused breathing exercise that emphasizes intentional and controlled exhalation. To perform it, you should start by inhaling slowly through your nostrils. Then, with your lips pursed as if you were about to blow out candles, exhale gently through your mouth. This method helps by slowing the rate of breathing and creating back pressure in the airways, which can keep them open longer and facilitate better gas exchange.
By incorporating this technique into your daily routine, ideally practicing it four to five times a day, you can experience a noticeable improvement in your respiratory function. It’s also a powerful tool in your stress management arsenal, offering a way to calm your nervous system and regain control of your breathing.
During your daily routine, it is vital to take time to tune into your breathing, a simple yet effective technique that can help you maintain a sense of calm and significantly reduce stress.
To incorporate attuned breathing into your life, find a quiet time each day to lie down or sit comfortably. Close your eyes and focus on taking slow breaths, inhaling deeply through your nose and exhaling gently through your mouth. Aim for a rhythm that feels natural to you, usually around five to six breaths per minute. This slow, deep breathing pattern is key to stimulating your body’s natural calming response and can help reduce stress.
Contact the psychologist psychotherapist
The psychotherapist acts as an ally, offering a confidential space where one can openly explore one’s fears, concerns and insecurities. In this journey, a psychotherapist provides invaluable tools and knowledge, promoting self-awareness and personal growth. Seeking the support of a psychotherapist is an empowering act of self-care, a commitment to a deeper understanding of ourselves, and a courageous step toward building resilience in the face of life’s challenges.
If you find yourself in the throes of persistent worry, anxiety or emotional turmoil, consider reaching out to a psychotherapist – a dedicated partner on the path to emotional well-being and a more fulfilling life. Your mental health matters, and the journey to healing begins with a single decision. Take that step today.
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The process of psychotherapy requires commitment, dedication and is addressed only to those who seriously see that they need to change their lives. If you are thinking of starting this journey, call me at 211 71 51 801 to make an appointment and see together how I can help you.
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