In this article, I’m going to show you exactly how to overcome shortness of breath when anxious.
In fact, you’ll learn 5 super tips to make sure you can start breathing more freely.
Let’s dive right into it!
Why do I experience shortness of breath?
Your mental health has a huge impact on your physical body. Every thought you have has a physical reaction on your body.
When you think about a moment you felt extremely happy, your body will feel lighter. But when you think about something that scares you or makes you anxious… your body will respond as well.
The more scary, fearful and anxious thoughts keep running in your mind, the more your body will respond as if there was danger in the outer world. The longer these anxious thoughts keep running in your mind and the more intense they are, the bigger the impact on your body.
When this happens your body prepares itself to either fight or flight the situation, which is the fight or flight response in action. Even though there is no real danger and the “danger” exists in your head, your body still responds as if there was danger.
That is what anxiety actually is: a turned on fight or flight response.
What are the symptoms of shortness of breath?
According to MedicalNewsToday, when your body prepares to either fight or flight, you might experience the following symptoms when dealing with shortness of breath:
- Feeling like you cannot get enough air
- A tight chest
- Faster breathing
- Shallow breathing
- Muscle tension
- Heart palpitations
- Feeling dizzy
- Feeling restless and on edge
Now you know what causes shortness of breath with anxiety and the symptoms, let’s talk about the 5 things you can do to overcome shortness of breath.
Tip #1. Practice diaphragmatic breathing
The first thing that you can do to overcome shortness of breath is to focus on your breathing. This sounds counterintuitive (and some people might disagree) but it helped me, as a former anxious person, to calm myself when I was anxious.
When you are anxious, you are often breathing from your mouth or chest. It’s very shallow and very fast. A good thing to know is that when you experience shortness of breath when dealing with anxiety, is that you’re not running out of air and that you have plenty of oxygen in your body.
But what causes the shortness of breath is that your mind thinks it has to fight or flight, which means it needs MORE air. Therefore the shortness of breath doesn’t mean that you’ve too little oxygen… only too little oxygen to get successfully anxious.
When you practice diaphragmatic breathing, you can calm yourself down by slowing down your breath rate and calming your nervous system.
To use diaphragmatic breathing do the following:
1. Sit comfortably or lie down
2. Place one hand on your belly and one on your chest.
3. Breath in for the count of 4… hold for the count of 7 and exhale for the count of 8. Let your stomach move out against your hand and do this for a few minutes.
The more you can ease your physical symptoms and show your body that you’re OK, the more you can use your rationale to ease the situation.
Tip #2. Go outside
The second thing you can do to overcome your shortness of breath is to go outside. Whenever I feel shortness of breath and all the other tips don’t work, I simply take a walk outside.
These days it’s normal to sit 8 hours behind a desk (for 5 days a week) and breathe very shallow. The opposite of this breathing pattern is to go outside and fill your lungs completely with fresh air.
When you experience shortness of breath because you’re anxious, you could take a 15-minute walk where you move and focus on inhaling the fresh air when you’re outside. This shows your body that you are OK, because you inhale deeply and are in movement, which makes your mind more calm.
Tip #3. Practice a worry mantra
The third tip to overcome shortness of breath is to practice a worry mantra. Anxiety is either caused by negative long-term thought patterns or a traumatic event. When it is created by negative thought patterns, you should ask yourself the following:
“Am I a worrier?”
You might answer with a confident “yes” or a subtle “maybe”, because worrying for you doesn’t even seem like worry anymore. But overthinking or playing worst-case scenarios in your mind is also “worry”.
For me this worrying was about the YouTube videos I made.
I kept overthinking certain things like: am I good enough? Am I not appearing stupid? Do iI say the right words in the right order?
This caused a lot of anxiety when I was filming the videos.
To stop my overthinking from controlling me, I began using a worry mantra:
“Whatever I say or do, I am enough and I love what I do.”
What worry mantra can you create to help you stop overthinking and worrying? Worry creates a lot of stress on the body… so what can you say to stop worrying? Whenever you worry, say this mantra to yourself. This doesn’t cause all worry and anxiety to go away but can help you ease your symptoms.
Tip #4. Start exercising
The fourth thing you can do to overcome shortness of breath is to start exercising. When you are anxious and stressed, your body built up a lot of energy. Your body wants to use all the energy to either fight or flight… but because you didn’t do any of these two things the energy is stuck in your body.
This stuck energy can create lots of problems, like muscle cramps, a tight chest and (surprise) shortness of breath.
One of the best things to do to let out this built-up energy is to go exercising. Make use of the built-up energy and let it out when you’re going to the gym or running. It feels extremely good to let out the built-up stress.
What you will notice after your gym session is that your body and mind feel more relaxed and at ease… and your shortness of breath is drastically less!
Tip #5. Get to the core of your problem
The most important tip to overcome your shortness of breath when dealing with anxiety is to get to the core of your anxiety. You can use all tips in the world and temporarily ease your symptoms… but when you really go to the core of your anxiety and learn how to cope in new ways: you’re really doing the work.
You are anxious for a reason. You have symptoms for a reason. But to ease the symptoms is just like taking a pain killer, while all you actually had to do was get to the root of your pain.
There was a time when you weren’t anxious and you can go back to that person if you know how to overcome anxiety, learn new ways of coping and implement the right tools and strategies.
Therefore, the best tip to overcome your shortness of breath is to invest in yourself with the right education.
I created a FREE training to help you with overcoming your anxiety that you can watch for a limited time.
When to see a doctor?
When you experience shortness of breath and cannot connect it to your anxiety, it is always wise to ask a health professional or emergency medical attention for help and advice.
The following symptoms can be related to a heart attack: fatigue, a tight chest, sweating more and lightheadedness.
When you experience shortness of breath when dealing with anxiety, it can feel scary. It feels like you’re running out of air and will pass out… but don’t worry. Your body almost always has enough oxygen, but it makes you feel like it has not enough because it wants to prepare itself to either fight or flight.
When you want to overcome your shortness of breath, focus on diagrammatic breathing, taking a walk outside, practising a worry mantra, visiting the gym and going to the root of your anxiety. Going to the root of your anxiety is the most powerful tip there is to overcome both your shortness of breath and anxiety.
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