a clever breathing technique to silence anxiety

I've dealt with anxiety my whole life. It's always been there, a familiar yet entirely unwanted presence. Walking beside me as I've gone about my usual day; standing next to me at parties telling me I look awkward; confronting me in the days (weeks even) leading up to a workshop or presentation to tell me I'm a fraud. I've dealt with it day-in-day-out for many years.

this is what anxiety can feel like, to me. photo by beethy

For the most part, I've managed to stop it from crippling me. But recently it's kicked up a gear. Just a little. Just enough to get me proactive about being kind to myself. Sometimes life does this - it reminds you that you're not invincible, that you are vulnerable, just like everyone else. Sometimes that's what you need, this reminder. It forces you to pause, assess and manage, so that you can refuel and keep moving forward. It's a good thing.

One good thing I've picked up as a result of this stone in my pond is this super clever breathing technique that helps pull your mind from the grip of a Catasrophizing thought pattern. It helps to soothe a tightening chest, deepen shallow breathing, calm butterflies, still a racing mind. I want to share it with you. It's for anyone and everyone, anxious-prone or not. Afterall, so many of us don't actually breathe properly.

Here it is:

As you breathe in, count to yourself slowly. Breathe in slowly and fully and say to yourself "1 and 2 and 3 and 4 and 5" as you do it. As you breathe out, do the same - count "1 and 2 and 3 and 4 and 5". Repeat for a few minutes until you feel settled.

The aim is to get into a rhythm. You need rhythm. Feel free to tap your foot or nod your head as you count.

Try it and let me know how it feels.




  1. Hey Maria,

    Thanks for sharing this breathing technique with us, and for being honest about your experience of anxiety. As somebody who also deals with anxiety I have also found this to be a helpful strategy, along with a technique called mindfulness which can take a little time and patience to master but is well worth it in the long run.

    Best wishes,

    Emma x.

    1. Thanks Emma, I always get a little nervous posting something so personal, but if I learnt one thing from working in mental health for 4 years, it's to not be afraid to talk about it - that's the only way to break the stigma. Thanks for your kind words. x Maria

  2. Thanks for the reminder. Sometimes I forget to breathe… properly. And it's always anxiety related. It's nice to know I'm not the only one with this 'companion'.



  3. Maria, a beautiful honest read. Thanks. I've been reading your blog for a little while now. The stones in the pond, i like this. Another technique I've learnt that really helps is taking your mind down to your feet and start visualising/feeling around how each foot feels, tracing around each toe and then make your way up the body on booths sides... heel, shins, back of the knees etc until you're at your head and then lastly go down to your stomach/solar plexus and focus on breathing and notice what it is making you feel anxious, and then breathe through it. It works a treat. Even if you only just get to the feet part, it's a good distraction out of your mind.

    1. Thanks so much Natalie, sounds like a great diversion technique, will give it a go.

  4. Love your honesty in your blog, Maria. I get anxious too and I like this technique you mentioned. The other thing I do if at home is go for a jog, there is something about that repetitive movement that silences everything else.

  5. Funny how in tune we all are. I too have been more anxious of late. I've blamed giving up sugar... I'm waiting for all my blood chemistry and hormones to sort themselves out. But your breathing technique is just what I need. The anxiety comes over me in waves, making my heart race, making me almost pant. Remembering to breath is so what I need.

    Oh and I am rubbish at exercise. No matter how much I do, I never get better at it. So when it's really bad, I run. Not far, not for long and I run badly, it hurts, it's hard, so there is no way I can remain anxious while I do it. I always, always feel better afterwards.

  6. I've just discovered your blog and I want to thank you - I live a great life, but I suffer from anxiety and have battled with this for over 10 years. It can be crippling and really frightening at times, but I always make it through the deep shadowy darkness with help from people like you. Thanks for sharing a useful breathing technique. I'll remember to call upon it when next in need. Thanks x



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