This week, we’re starting another series on wellness – featuring your questions answered by our zen guru, Megan. Feel free to submit via our Facebook, Twitter, or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org – Join the Conversation!
Question: I find that my anxiety can get super high at work. Are there any easy exercises I can do to calm myself down (so no one notices I’m panicking!)
Megan’s Answer: There is a great breathing technique called the 4-7-8 breath that you can try whenever you’re feeling anxious. I learned this technique from Dr. Andrew Weil and acts as a natural tranquilizer for your nervous system. You should develop this technique by practicing it every day but for the first month do not do more than four breaths at one time. If you practice it consistently for a month you can extend your practice to eight breaths. If you feel a little lightheaded when you first try this, do not be concerned; the feeling will pass.
Ideally you should do this exercise sitting with your back straight but you can do it in any position you are in. Place the tip of your tongue against the ridge of tissue just behind your upper front teeth, and keep it there through the entire exercise. You will be exhaling through your mouth around your tongue; try pursing your lips slightly if this seems awkward.
- Exhale completely through your mouth, making a whoosh sound.
- Close your mouth and inhale quietly through your nose to a mental count of four.
- Hold your breath for a count of seven.
- Exhale completely through your mouth, making a whoosh sound to a count of eight.
- This is one breath. Now inhale again and repeat the cycle three more times for a total of no more than four breaths.
Note that you always inhale quietly through your nose and exhale audibly through your mouth. The tip of your tongue stays in position the whole time. The absolute time you spend on each phase is not important; the ratio of 4:7:8 is important. If you have trouble holding your breath, speed the exercise up but keep to the ratio of 4:7:8 for the three phases. With practice you can slow it all down and get used to inhaling and exhaling more and more deeply.
By Megan Monahan