How To Stop Focusing On Breathing

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2 Practices To Try If “Focusing On The Breath” In Meditation Make You Broken-hearted


Past Aditi Nerurkar, M.D., MPH


Aditi Nerurkar, M.D., MPH., is a Harvard-trained heed-torso medicine physician with an expertise in resilience and stress

This year has been one of the virtually challenging years in modern history, 1 that has taken a toll on our mental and physical health. To help you through information technology, nosotros launched
Experts On Call
, a new series in which top-tier health and well-being experts reply your questions—still big or small-scale—to help you observe solutions, put together a game plan, and make each day a footling bit easier. Don’t forget, you lot tin can
ask questions anytime
, and we’ll exercise our best to find the right expert to signal you in the right direction. Without farther ado, hither’s another edition of the series with a question from reader Scott G.


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My anxious thoughts seem to eye on my breath, in the form of non being able to take full breaths or a want—but inability—to capture that ‘final sip’ of breath. This makes it hard to use meditation to manage my feet. What can I do?

As an integrative medicine physician focused on listen-body wellness, this is one of the most mutual questions I receive. To help reply it, I outset want to accost why anxiety affects breath and assure you that you are non alone in this feeling.

Why anxiety affects breath.

When nosotros feel anxious, whether it’southward a momentary sense of anxiety or a formal diagnosis of anxiety, that feeling stimulates the sympathetic nervous system, also known as the “fight-or-flight” mode. When we’re feeling broken-hearted, cortisol levels increase, the eye starts chirapsia faster, and the pace of the breath quickens.

Breath is only one aspect of fight-or-flight, and then it is very common for people with anxiety to experience an inability to catch or slow their breath, or to increment their awareness of that jiff.

Fight-or-flight is a natural self-preservation technique, and it actually means the torso is functioning appropriately. Our task is to figure out what’s causing that stress response and begin to manage information technology.


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How to manage the jiff when animate makes you lot anxious.

Meditation and slowing of the mind can exist challenging for a lot of reasons. My best advice if y’all’re struggling with it? Don’t do it.

That may sound surprising, given the mental benefits sitting mindfulness meditations can have, but there are enough of stress and anxiety-management tools out there that may exist more than effective.

Anyone who becomes
anxious while focusing on the breath may benefit from movement meditation instead. The process of moving helps the broken-hearted person get out of their caput and into their trunk.

How to practice move meditation:

  1. Set a timer for 20 minutes on your sentry or your phone.
  2. Put on a mask and go exterior.
  3. Walk slowly, articulating your feet on the ground every bit you walk.
  4. Call back virtually heel-toe, heel-toe with each pes, or just bring your sensation to your feet on the floor as you’re walking.

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After spending a few minutes focusing on your feet, you tin can bring a gentle sensation to your breath. If that feels scary or uncomfortable, become back to focusing on the anxiety. Non only is this exercise grounding, just it also encourages time in nature, which can farther benefit mental wellness and de-escalate cortisol levels.

Therapeutically, that 20-minute walk is all it takes to reduce anxiety. If you want to try some other strategy, breathwork could also aid. Opposite of sitting meditation, which focuses on the natural footstep of the breath, breathwork requires you lot to actively change the natural breath. Hither are a couple of breathwork techniques I recommend:

Diaphragmatic animate:

  1. Place both easily on the belly.
  2. Close your eyes.
  3. Take a deep inhale through your nose, letting your belly rise.
  4. Exhale with pursed lips through your mouth.

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Why it’southward helpful:
When nosotros feel anxious, we take shallow, fast breaths through our chest, known as thoracic breathing. By engaging in diaphragmatic animate, we stimulate the parasympathetic nervous system, which gets us out of the fight-or-flight mode.

Eye-centered breathing:

  1. Put 1 manus on your heart and the other mitt on your belly.
  2. Shut your eyes.
  3. Inhale for iv counts through your nose.
  4. Exhale for seven counts through your mouth.

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Why it’s helpful:
The jiff is the but actual function that is under voluntary and involuntary control. Since feelings or moments of anxiousness feel and so out of command, this practice helps get to the root of that.

Bottom line.

Sitting mindfulness meditation is a wonderful tool, only it is just one tool out of many to help manage anxiety. If the practice doesn’t experience comfy to you, endeavor practicing grounding movement meditations instead. If y’all’re able, consider practicing breathwork as well, to help you experience more in command.