Whether you live with an anxiety disorder or only experience feelings of anxiety occasionally, there are breathing exercises that may help you find relief.

Many of us have experienced the nervousness and uncomfortable feelings associated with anxiety. These feelings are common and can occur during a stressful time in a person’s life or for no reason at all.

For some, these feelings are a fixture in daily life.

If you have anxiety and are looking for ways to manage your symptoms, deep breathing exercises may help. They are easy to do for most people and can be done virtually anywhere.

Let’s take a closer look at the three best breathing exercises to help manage anxiety.

Although breathing is automatic, deep breathing is the conscious act of taking long, deep breaths. This method of inhaling air into the lungs may help promote relaxation and calm anxiety and stress by modifying your body’s response to stress.

But how does it work?

Anxiety affects the mind and the body much like a fearful event. When you feel anxious, your mind may fill with worry and fear. Your body may respond by increasing your breathing rate, heart rate, and blood pressure.

The reason for these symptoms lies in the sympathetic nervous system — a part of the autonomic nervous system that reacts to stressful events by initiating the fight, flight, or freeze response.

Luckily, the body has another system — the parasympathetic nervous system — to counteract this response and bring the body back down to a calm state.

Research suggests that deep breathing can help trigger the parasympathetic nervous system and instill feelings of relaxation and calm. Other studies suggest that controlled breathing can improve mood and lower stress levels in both men and women.

If you’re looking for ways to manage stress, there are several controlled breathing methods to try, including breath focus technique and lion’s breath.

During bouts of anxiety, there are three breathing techniques that may help reverse your symptoms. These include:

  • abdominal breathing
  • pursed-lip breathing
  • resonant breathing

Besides being helpful at reducing anxiety, these three exercises are often used in pulmonary rehabilitation programs to help people with respiratory and heart conditions.

This breathing technique is done by inhaling through your nose and slowly exhaling from your mouth in a controlled way.

A study published in the journal Frontiers in Psychology found that an 8-week training course in diaphragmatic breathing improved attention and reduced negative responses to stress in healthy adults.

Here’s how you do it:

  1. Find a comfortable position, either sitting in a chair or lying on your back on a bed or other comfy flat surface.
  2. Place one hand on your chest and the opposite hand on your belly, just under your rib cage.
  3. Inhale slowly through your nose, focusing on drawing the breath in and downward toward your stomach area while keeping your chest still.
  4. While pursing your lips together, much like you would if you were drinking from a straw, press gently on your stomach or tighten your stomach muscles and exhale slowly through your mouth.

While doing this deep breathing exercise, try to keep your chest as still as possible, so your diaphragm draws air deeply into your lungs.

This technique works best when done at least 3 or 4 times a day for 5 to 10 minutes. But it can be tailored to meet your needs.

Pursed-lip breathing is a simple method of controlled breathing that may help to relieve symptoms of anxiety.

Research suggests this technique is an excellent way to relax and can also help people with respiratory conditions improve their lung function.

Here are the steps:

  1. Begin by inhaling slowly through your nose for about 2 seconds.
  2. Then, purse or pucker your lips as if you’re blowing out a candle.
  3. Finally, exhale slowly through your pursed lips for approximately 4 seconds.

This technique can be done 4 or 5 times a day or whenever you feel anxious or stressed.

Also known as “resonance frequency breathing,” this breathing method has been shown to lower heart rate, breathing, and blood pressure, as well as improve mood.

Resonant breathing focuses on breathing in a rhythmic pattern, so you don’t need to worry as much about whether you are inhaling and exhaling out of your nose or mouth.

This makes it an ideal technique if you are new to controlled breathing. It’s also simple to do and can be used in most situations. Here’s how:

  1. While counting in your head to 5, slowly and mindfully inhale air to expand your lungs.
  2. Exhale slowly and thoroughly as you count to 5 once again.

Repeat this pattern with a goal of breathing at a rate of about 3 to 7 breaths per minute. You can also modify this breathing rate to suit your needs and accommodate any health conditions you may have.

The best part about using controlled breathing methods to manage anxiety is they don’t require a great deal of time. They also can be started as soon as you feel the uncomfortable feelings of anxiety creep in.

If you are considering any of these techniques to control your anxiety, here are a few tips for getting started:

  • Pick a time. Try to schedule a time during the day to practice these methods. Think about adding a reminder on your phone or other devices, so you don’t have to worry about remembering.
  • Begin slowly. Consider beginning these exercises slowly and experiment with them until you find the technique that works best for you.
  • Make it a routine. Once you’ve found the method that controls your anxiety the best, aim to incorporate it into your daily routine to ward off nervousness before it starts.
  • Track your progress. Keep a log of your symptoms before and during each breathing exercise. As with any exercise, stop if you experience any unpleasant symptoms. Consider talking with a healthcare professional if you have concerns.

If you feel anxious, consider trying some deep breathing exercises to help ease those feelings.

They are easy to do and may also relieve your anxiety and help you relax.

Remember, if you have anxiety, you’re not alone.

Many people have or have had anxious feelings, and sometimes there may be no obvious cause. If you’re concerned about your anxiety, consider talking with a healthcare professional for more information.