How To Breathe Instead Of Eat When You Feel Anxious
For some of us, anxiety can mean a lot more than merely feeling a little anxious.
Symptoms of anxiety can be exhausting, painful, and even debilitating.
I once experienced body tremors so severe that I could hardly walk.
Like you, I searched and searched for remedies that would provide relief.
Most often, we often search for answers and solutions outside ourselves.
And of course, we would.
It’s hard to imagine that relief could come from within us when our mind and body are struggling with mental and emotional discomfort.
And whereas external remedies can bring relief; sometimes our choices for relief although seemingly innocent and practical, end up snowballing into unhealthy and even harmful habits and obsessions.
Take eating for instance.
We might think consoling our anxiety in a pint of Ben & Jerry’s or bag of Lay’s or a package of Oreos is harmless when compared to other “comforting” options such as a bottle of red wine, a few brandy old-fashioneds, or a six-pack of microbrews.
However, the long-term effects of overeating or binging when we feel anxious can put us at risk for other issues and problems similar to overdrinking or “over-ing” anything.
What we believe is comforting in the short-term ends up putting us at risk for or causing a variety of other long-term and even chronic issues.
Specifically, overeating or binge eating can cause weight gain, an increased risk of obesity, diabetes, heart disease, thyroid disorders, and other physical and psychological problems associated with hormonal imbalance.
I lived the effects that years of binge eating to cope with my anxiety had on my physical, mental and emotional health, and my bank account.
I wish I knew then what I know now.
The Simple Practice of Breathing
Although a myriad of options and treatments exist for easing anxiety and I tried many of them, some can cause uncomfortable side effects, are impractical in day-to-day life or are difficult to sustain long-term.
Remarkably, research reports that it’s often the simplest strategies, such as breathing that provide the most long-term noticeable relief.
Plenty of evidence supports the use of intentional deep breathing for calming and regulating the nervous system.
Breathing is free, always available to us, and is proven to lower blood pressure, produce a sense of calm, and regulate our mind and body.
One of the most useful deep breathing strategies is Box Breathing, also known as Kumbhaka, which is the Sanskrit word for breathing exercises that focus our attention on the pause at the top of the inhale and at the bottom of the exhale.
While being a powerful stress reliever, box breathing can also increase focus and concentration, and performance.
It can be used by anyone who wants to meditate, reduce stress and anxiety, and improve their mood and overall sense of well being.
How To Practice Box Breathing
To get started, settle into a comfortable position, preferably in a stress-free, quiet space where you can focus on your breathing.
Relax as much as you can so that you can breathe fully and comfortably.
Inhale slowly and deeply to the count of 5, hold for 5, exhale slowly and gently to the count of 5, and again, hold for 5.
Ideally, repeat the box breathing cycle four to five time times or for about 5 minutes, or until you feel calmer and more focused.
Repeat several times a day as needed to calm your nerves and relieve stress.
Over time, discovering that you can trust your breath to be there when you need it can help you feel more secure and safe in the world.
Also, box breathing can decrease stress and improve our mood, which makes it an exceptional practice for anxiety-related for conditions, including depression.
Box breathing can also help with sleep issues and disturbances by calming your nervous system before going to bed.
It’s even known to be a helpful practice for managing pain.
General benefits include reducing physical stress symptoms in the body; positively affecting mental and emotional well being; increasing mental clarity, energy, and focus; and improving future reactions to stress.
Because the practice of gently and slowly holding our breath does all kinds of neat “scientific” things inside the body that produce a calm and relaxed feeling in the mind and body, it’s a recommended natural remedy for anxiety, even panic.
If you’re new to the practice of box breathing, go easy and be patient as you get the hang of it. For example, if 5 seconds seems too long, choose 4 seconds instead.
Here’s a link to a sweet 5-Minute Guided Box Breathing video you might enjoy to get you started or use as part of your evolving breathing or meditation practice.
If you have a history of dizziness, fainting, or cardiovascular-related issues, check with your healthcare provider before trying box breathing.
Consider practicing box breathing when you feel the anxious urge to reach for food or before you sit down to your regular meals.
I often use box breathing in stressful meetings, before speaking events, or whenever I need to calm myself down and find my center.
It’s simple, easy, works, and free “inside” of us whenever we need it.
And, as you calm your mind and body, the habit and urge to eat, or reach for anything externally will eventually subside and fade.
Then, you can move through your amazing life calmer and more at peace, and food and eating can return to their intended roles in your life, which are to nourish and fuel your body well.