4 Breathing Exercises for Anxiety Relief

Breathing exercises for anxiety are a great, simple way to quickly calm your mind and body and find some relief.

Taking a deep breath can help you find anxiety relief

Take a deep breath.

Inhale all the way in.

Then exhale all the way out.

It feels pretty good, right?

That's because breathing is more than just a biological need.

Your breath is the rhythm of your body.

That's why quick breaths can make it feel like everything's speeding up. And why calming, breathing exercises can offer real relaxation, calm, and anxiety relief.

While breathing exercises can't address long-term causes of stress or anxiety, they definitely can help you find some peace of mind in any moment when you're feeling exceptionally stressed, anxious, or uneasy.

Here, we've gathered 4 easy breathing exercises for anxiety relief that can be done almost anywhere, any time you need a quick, calming break.

Learn more about what causes anxiety →

Do breathing exercises help with anxiety relief?

In short: yes!

And there's scientific, biological reasons why.

Because there are actually two types of breathing:

  • Abdominal breathing
  • Chest breathing

Feeling anxious causes most people to start taking faster, shallower breaths. Or, in other words: to start breathing with their chest.

But chest breathing - especially when we start taking rapid, short breaths - actually floods our body with too much oxygen and can activate our fight-or-flight response.

We start breathing too much air in and not enough out, making our body think that we're preparing our muscles to fight or outrun a bear.

And the worst part?

Anyone who's experienced this before knows that this breathing is not just a symptom of anxiety but also a vicious circle, only leading to worse anxiety or panic attacks in the moment.

But there's good news: it's actually an easy physical habit to correct!

Learn how CBT Therapy can help address anxiety →

All we have to do is try to gently, slowly refocus our breath.

Because when we breathe abdominally we take even, deep breaths, and balance our body's levels of oxygen and carbon dioxide.

Which, in turn, tells our body that it can relax.

That there's no lion or fight to prepare for.

4 Breathing Exercises for Anxiety Relief

Any deep, slow breathing can be a useful tool to access more calm and relief when feeling a bit anxious or stressed out.

But the following 4 exercises are easy to follow, guaranteed to help engage deep breathing, and help you feel calmer, immediately.

Plus each breathing exercise can be done sitting down, laying down, or standing up - wherever you may be.

To feel the benefits most deeply - try closing your eyes as you do the breathing exercises.

5 easy mindfulness exercises to feel calmer →

1. Deep Breathing to Slow Down

This is a great exercise if you don't like timing your breaths in and out. The longer exhales make it easy to focus on just one thing at a time while also pushing your breath to slow down and move into your abdomen.

  • Put one hand on your chest
  • Place your other hand on your stomach or solar plexus
  • Take a deep breath in through your nose
  • Breathe out slowly through your mouth until you can't exhale any more
  • Exhale for longer than you inhale
  • Try to make each exhale a bit longer than the last one
  • Repeat 5 times or until you feel calmer

2. 4-7-8 Breathing to Stay Grounded

If you want to feel a little more control in the moment, this is an exercise to help you feel more present and grounded. Focus all your thoughts on just counting the seconds as you breathe in. And then out.

  • Put one hand on your stomach or solar plexus
  • Place your other on your chest
  • Inhale & count to 4
  • Hold & count to 7
  • Exhale & count to 8
  • Repeat 5 times or until you feel calmer

3. Roll Breathing to Engage the Abdomen

This is a more physical, less mental type of breathing exercise. Which may be a great option if you feel like your thoughts are overwhelming you or starting to spiral. Focus your mind on just the movement of your hands, using your breathing as a tool to move them as you want.

  • Put one hand on your stomach or solar plexus
  • Place your other hand on your chest
  • Breathe in deeply through your nose
  • Breathe out through your mouth
  • Try keep your hand on your chest still as you breathe
  • Let the hand on your stomach move in and out as you breathe
  • Repeat 10 time or until you feel calmer

4. Yoga Breathing to Focus

Yogis out there may be familiar with this breathing exercise. It's a great, more interactive option if you find your mind is easily distracted or if you feel deep breathing by itself doesn't sufficiently calm your mind.

  • Put one hand on your stomach or solar plexus
  • Place your other hand on your chest
  • Count to 5 as you inhale through your nose
  • Breathe out through your mouth
  • As you breathe out, either sigh or make a long, slow "ha" sound
  • Repeat 10 times or until you feel calmer

Anytime You Need: Your Breath Is There for You

Breathing exercises for anxiety relief are never a substitute for working with a mental health professional to address long-term anxiety.

But they are a perfect tool to find a little more calm, a little more peace of mind, and a little more mindfulness, in any moment when you may need it.

Because breathing exercises can actively interrupt the physical and mental symptoms of anxiety and panic attacks. Helping you feel more in charged and letting your body know that you're okay and that it can relax.

Remember: your breath is always there for you, wherever you are, any time you want to slow or calm down.

They're also a great tool if you just want to give yourself a break in the midst of a busy, distracting day. Or if you want to wind down for a deep, restful night's sleep.

It all just starts with taking a deep, slow breath in.

And then just letting it out.