Anxiety has a very unwelcome way of popping up when you least expect it.
When you’re anxious or stressed, you don’t usually pay attention to your breathing. You either overdo it, taking short breaths or don’t do it at all. It’s quite possible to suddenly realise you’ve been holding your breath and clenching your jaw for ages if you’re stressed out.
Just thinking about your breath and paying attention to it can have a calming effect though. It's not something we do very often but breathing properly is so important. And using a focused breathing technique can be even more helpful when you're anxious or stressed.
Enter: alternate nostril breathing.
It's a technique that has been used in yoga for thousands of years and yes, it focuses on breathing through the nose. Hillary Clinton gave it a shout out in her autobiography, What Happened in 2017. It was one of the things she said she used to recover from losing the American election to Donald Trump in 2016. And, hey, if it's good enough for Hillary...
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It’s a very simple trick to master and you can use it anywhere – once you get the hang of it.
HOW TO PRACTICE ALTERNATE NOSTRIL BREATHING:
Sit in a comfortable position if you can. On the floor on in a chair with your back straight and feet planted on the ground.
Using your right thumb, gently close your right nostril and inhale slowly through your left nostril.
Gently close your left nostril by pressing on it with your ring (third) finger. As you do so, open your right nostril and slowly exhale out of it.
Still in this position, inhale through your right nostril, then close it, before opening your left nostril and slowly exhaling thought it. Then inhaling once again.
And that’s basically it! You can repeat the moves five to ten times and the technique will get smoother after a few goes.
Taking deep slow breaths in this way could help you find your way out of feeling anxious or stressed. Fans of alternate nostril breathing also reckon it helps with focus, lowers the heart rate and makes you more alert too.
If you or someone you know is suffering from mental health issues, there is help available:
- Samaritans – 116 123 – [email protected] or [email protected]
- Pieta House – 1800 247 247 or text HELP to 51444
- Aware - 1800 80 48 48
- Childline – 1800 66 66 66 or free text 50101
Main image by Esther Driehaus
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