Anxiety is one of the most common mental health problems that many people experience nowadays. Maybe you're on anti-anxiety meds. Maybe you aren't. Either way, there's a tried and tested way to help you get past your crippling anxiety attacks. And unlike the pills that Western doctors are oh-so keen to supply...there are zero side effects.
Holding your breath - also known as breath retention - is an ancient practice that has been used in various forms for thousands of years. The Tibetans did it. The Taoists did it. Joe Rogan does it.
It's a technique that involves taking a deep breath and holding it for a few seconds or longer before exhaling. Some people also practice holding their breath after exhaling for a certain period. The benefits of holding your breath are numerous and can be particularly helpful in managing stress and anxiety. Here are some reasons why:
1. It helps regulate your nervous system
Holding your breath for a few seconds can help activate the parasympathetic nervous system, which is responsible for calming the body and reducing stress. This is because holding your breath triggers the body's "dive reflex," a natural physiological response that slows down the heart rate, lowers blood pressure, and reduces stress hormones.
2. It's a form of meditation
Holding your breath requires you to focus on your breath, which can help you stay present and mindful. Via breathholds, you can become more aware of your thoughts and emotions and learn to let go of stress and anxiety more easily.
3. Improves lung capacity
Practicing holding your breath can improve your lung capacity, which can be particularly helpful for people who suffer from anxiety but also respiratory problems. When you hold your breath, you allow your lungs to fill with oxygen, which can strengthen your respiratory muscles and overall lung function.
4. It can increase your resilience to stress and anxiety
Practicing holding your breath regularly can increase your resilience to stress over time. By challenging your body to withstand longer periods of breath retention, you can develop greater mental and physical resilience, which can help you cope better with stress and anxiety in your daily life.
5. It's a simple and accessible practice
One of the best things about practicing holding your breath is that you can do it anywhere and at any time. Whether you're at work, at home, or on a date you're seriously regretting, you can take a few moments to practice holding your breath and reap the benefits of this powerful technique.
Techniques for Breath Holding
There are several different techniques that you can use to practice holding your breath. When practicing any of the following, it's always recommended to either sit with your spine as straight as possible, or lie flat on your back.
Box breathing is a popular technique used by the military, athletes, and public speakers to help regulate their breathing and reduce stress. It involves inhaling for four seconds, holding the breath for four seconds, exhaling for four seconds, and holding the breath for four seconds again. Repeat this cycle 10-20 times, and you'll feel more relaxed, focused, and less anxious.
2. Counted breaths
Counted breaths involve inhaling and holding your breath for a certain number of seconds, then exhaling and holding your breath for the same number of seconds. You can start with a low number, like 3 or 4 seconds, and gradually increase it over time. This technique can help you regulate your breathing and improve your lung capacity.
3. Wim Hof breathing
The Wim Hof Method is a technique developed by the Dutch extreme athlete Wim Hof, also known as the "Iceman." It involves taking 30 deep breaths, followed by a deep exhalation and a breath hold. After the breath hold, you inhale and hold your breath for 15 seconds before repeating the cycle. This technique can help you increase your lung capacity, reduce stress, and boost your immune system. 3-4 rounds is recommended.
4. The 4-7-8 technique
The 4-7-8 technique involves inhaling through your nose for four seconds, holding your breath for seven seconds, and exhaling through your nose for eight seconds. Repeat this cycle 7-10 times. This technique can help you calm your mind and body, reduce stress and anxiety, and improve your sleep quality.
5. O2 Table