Proactive Anxiety Response

Practice paced breathing

Proper breathing is very important for control of anxiety and panic.  It is also the best relaxation technique for control of nervousness and panic.  Underbreathing (slow/shallow) increases carbon dioxide retention.  This triggers the suffocation response in panic prone people, leading to compensatory overbreathing.  Conversely, overbreathing (hyperventilation) decreases carbon dioxide and causes feelings of depersonalization (feeling detached from oneself), dizziness, numbness, and confusion.

When anxious or tense, it is easier to breathe out first:

  • Step one:  Slowly exhale through the open mouth making a “s h h h h” sound.  Listen to the sound, or feel muscles relax, letting go of tension.
  • Step two:  Breathe in through the nose slowly, (mouth closed) and count, 1—2—3—4
  • Step three:  Hold to count of  1—2—3—4    
  • REPEAT STEPS

Find distractions

Focus attention on something outside yourself.  This might include listening to music, going for a walk, or calling a friend.

Use conditioned relaxation response

Make relaxation a part of daily routine.  Set aside time to practice your favorite relaxation activity.  This might be working out, playing sports, games, cards, movies, listening to music.  When relaxation is regularly practiced, the body forms a memory of what it feels like to be relaxed.  This memory is a tool you can use when you feel anxious.  Practice relaxing in anxiety provoking situations.

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