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Beat Anxiety with 3 Simple Breathing Drills

Jul 19, 2021

Did I remember to turn the oven off? I have so many emails to respond to. Am I almost out of gas? Oh sugar, I forgot to pick up dog food. Ugh, I told Renee I would meet her this weekend for brunch but I have so many things I need to do around the house. Oh gosh. Now I need a nap.

Repetitive, anxious and unproductive thoughts occupy more of our time than we care to admit.

It’s like a little wave of shoulds, needs and must-dos flood our headspace with no room for action. What purpose do these repeating and draining thoughts serve? Do they lead to action, consequence or have a meaningful function? Often this cycle of worry leads to anxiety, worry and fatigue. Which in turn leads to inaction leading to continued repetitive thoughts to further that feeling of anxiousness.

From there the cycle leads to the over-protective output from our nervous systems: hyperventilation, low-grade inflammation and/or ill-temper. Which then may lead to continued anxiety, other health issues and continued repetitive thoughts. And so the cycle continues. 

This. Is. Exhausting. 


So how do we break the anxiety cycle in the moment?

Oh. I am so glad you asked! (Well… you read the words I wrote so I kinda forced you to ask it…. anywhoooo…)

We have the capability of controlling our breathing patterns; and with that, we have the awesome ability to calm our nervous system and more easily manage the stress of daily life and the anxiety we experience. 

First - I want to tell you a story about my first and last shift at Restaurant I worked at in my early 20s. Coincidentally- this was also my very first anxiety/panic attack. 

Picture this - a brand new quick service kitchy brightly colored taco place. Great food, awesome drinks and reasonable prices. Kid friendly to boot! The place had only been open a few days but already had great reviews. I was working at a sister restaurant and received a call in the morning - “Help! We’re understaffed for our evening service!”

Well sugar! Of course I’ll come and help out. 

Welp. Turns out no waitstaff showed up for their shifts that night, because due to a scheduling mishap (it’s a new joint, mistakes happen!) no one was scheduled.

Oh boy. I can do this right? 20 tables?’ll be fine…

It wasn’t fine. After the first hour I was in the weeds, behind on getting to tables, bringing the exceptionally fast food out to tables and screwing up split checks. I just couldn’t. I thought about all the things I had on my list, a coke here, greet that table, get that food in, answer the phone, oh sugar I have to pee and is that guy snapping at me?? 

And then it happened. I had a tray of 7 or 8 drinks I had put together and a little one was getting restless and running around her booth. I was walking fast and didn’t want to spill on her. 

There was a crash. 

There was a moment of silence.

And I walked out of the back door of the place and started breathing HEAVY.

Fast, heavy and rapid. I couldn’t stop, the faster I took in air, the harder it was to breathe, so I just kept heaving the air in. My stomach hurt, my head kept thinking back to the coke that table 12 needed and the overwhelming feeling of being frozen completely overwhelmed me.

Years later I smile at this experience. Because I am not sure if ya’ll are aware - I have anxiety too. Crowds and planes do it for me. The difference between how I deal with my anxiety now versus then though is how I breathe. 

I could, quite honestly, write pages and pages on breathwork. I find it fascinating and terrifying. Such a simple activity that we do constantly has such a meaningful impact on our interactions with life. If you’re interested in learning more, discussing and practicing breathwork consider signing up for Breathing 101.

For now - I’ll leave you with these three drills to practice to help manage your racing thoughts, stress and anxiety.


Three drills to manage stress anxiety

 1. Breathing Recovery: Many Small Breath Holds 

 It is HARD to slow your breathing down when it’s out of control. I get anxious when people tell me to ‘just take a deep breath.’ No Sir, thank you, I will instead coax my breathing off the ledge with a series of small breath holds:

  • Sit tall and lengthen through your spine, imagine a ball on top of your head that you are trying to reach for the ceiling
  • Breathe in and out through your nose
  • Exhale, pinch your nose and hold your breath for 3-5 seconds
  • Release your nose and breathe normally for 10 seconds
  • Repeat 3-5 minutes


2. Grab a Bag or Cup your hands over your face. 

Yes. Re-breathe in the expelled C02. We want that C02 in the blood stream to improve blood flow and oxygen delivery and uptake in your cells, especially that brain of yours. 

Breathing drills do not have to be complex to be powerful!


3. Calm your Mind *This drill is NOT suitable for those are pregnant or have comprised health* 

I LOVE this drill! I often practice this to quell my racing thoughts and refocus my mind:

  • Put your hand on your belly and breathe 20 FAST and FULL breaths in and out. You should feel your belly moving out with your inhale and in on your exhale.
  • Exhale and hold your breath until you feel a medium-strong need for air. Attempt to keep your muscles and body relaxed while achieving this air hunger
  • When you return to breathing, Breathe Light and slow for 2ish minutes, attempting to maintain a slight need for air. Allow your mind to focus on the task and stay relaxed. Join me in a guided breathe light experience here.

Those of you that stuck around and read the whole thing - thank you! I’ll leave you with this - remember to keep it light, low, slow and quiet. 


Until next week,
Amanda Bauer
Forest Coaching Breathwork and Running Expert
Follow her @amanda_willrun4cookies


Are you ready to learn how breathwork can help you bust anxiety and stress, and transform your entire life? Join our resident breathing expert, Amanda Bauer, for our Breathing Fundamentals - A 4 week Self Study Course - to learn how to develop a bulletproof respiratory system and transform your life. Sign up and get started here.

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