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Breathing Through the Storm: Techniques for Coping with Shortness of Breath and Anxiety

Updated: Dec 8, 2023

Building Nurse resilience. I Can't breathe? How to train your body to relax

Do you sometimes find yourself struggling to breathe? Does it make you panic and wonder if something is wrong? Many people experience the same intense feelings when suffering from anxiety or a panic attack.

We hope this article will give you some insight into why you can suddenly feel short of breath and how you can implement breathing techniques to help you keep calm if it happens again.

Making an effort to become skilled in managing stress will be beneficial not just to you but also to the people who are important to you. If you find yourself experiencing shortness of breat

h, the good news is that several valuable strategies can assist you in calming your body and getting your breathing back under control. You can better manage your job's mental and emotional strain by practising deep breathing techniques regularly. Because taking care of oneself is just as important as looking after other people, it is necessary to put one's own needs first and acquire the skills essential to assist oneself. You have the power to overcome any fears and worries that you may have concerning your nursing vocation if you have the correct mindset and the skills necessary to do so. It would be best if you didn't allow them to prevent you from realising your full potential as a strong and successful nurse.

What does shortness of breath feel like?

You may feel like you can't catch your breath, your chest may feel tight, or it may feel like you are suffocating.

It is important to remember that these feelings will pass, and your breathing will return to normal.

It is natural to feel frightened and overpowered while feeling shortness of breath, mainly if this is a novel sensation for you. It is reasonable to feel this way. However, it is essential to remember that this is a frequent symptom of anxiety and panic attacks and that you are not the only one with it. Remember that you are not alone in having it. It would be best to keep telling yourself that these sensations will ultimately go away and that your breathing will return to normal at some point. In the interim, there are strategies and exercises that y

ou can do to assist in calming your body and regaining control of your breathing.

What causes shortness of breath from anxiety?

Shortness of breath can happen when your fight or flight response is activated. Your body is trying to protect you from danger. Still, anxiety can cause these symptoms when there is no danger present, such as delivering a presentation at work or a busy supermarket. Panic attacks are also a common cause of shortness of breath; these can be brought on by anxiety, fear, or stressful situations and usually last for a few minutes.

How to treat shortness of breath

As shortness of breath is a symptom of anxiety, finding the root of your stress is essential. Treatments include psychotherapy and medication. However, developing self-help skills can help ease symptoms alongside the other methods mentioned above.

Helping ease shortness of breath symptoms

Breathing exercises are a common recommendation to help calm your body and bring your breathing back under control. It is easier to practice these techniques when you are not anxious or experiencing shortness of breath. And it will help you to bring your breathing under control quicker and more effectively.

There are a variety of techniques you can try, including:

Diaphragmatic breathing- This technique encourages you to use your whole diaphragm when breathing to take big, full breaths and not just quick, short breaths from your mouth and chest.

Long exhale- This technique utilizes a long exhale, which evokes the parasympathetic nervous system, helping our bodies to relax and calm. Practice breathing in slowly for a count of 4 and out slowly for a count of 7. Taking too many breaths quickly can lead to hyperventilation, increasing stress, anxiety, and oxygen in the body.

Breath focus- Focusing on breathing slowly and steadily can help reduce anxiety. This technique encourages you to sit quietly with your eyes closed and mentally scan your body to identify tension. When you exhale, imagine the tension leaving your body. Inhaling breaths help you relax your muscles and feel calm.

Equal breath- This technique encourages you to inhale and exhale for the same amount of time.

Lion's breath-This technique encourages you to exhale forcefully whilst kneeling on the floor. Your actions and mouth movements resemble the motions of a Lion roaring and help relieve tension and stress from your body.

Alternate nostrils- This technique uses finger placement on the forehead and nostrils to restrict breathing from one nostril at a time.

Guided meditation- Guided meditation involves listening to calm recordings that guide you through various visualizations to help calm your body and relieve tension.

In conclusion, experiencing shortness of breath as a symptom of anxiety can be a frightening experience; however, it is crucial to remember that this condition is treatable. You can learn to regulate your stress and gain control of your breathing by participating in a combination of psychotherapy, medicine, and self-help strategies such as breathing exercises. You will be better equipped to deal with stressful situations and avoid shortness of breath from arising if you consistently practise these strategies and make them a part of your routine. Don't give up hope because you can conquer your shortness of breath and regain control of your mental health if you have the necessary resources and help. Always take slow, deep breaths, have an upbeat frame of mind, and ask for assistance when needed. You can do this!



  1. If you've experienced shortness of breath, how did it make you feel?

  2. What helped you to calm down?

  3. Did you do anything to help your breathing return to normal?

  4. Could any of the techniques in this article help you next time?

  5. What self-help techniques have you found effective in managing anxiety or shortness of breath in the past?


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