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Before You Knock Using Breathing Exercises to Help Manage Anxiety...

If you’re experiencing anxiety right now, it can really help to stop whatever you’re doing and take some slow, deep breaths. As a therapist I use deep breathing and visualization techniques every day in my sessions with clients, but often they are initially reluctant to try this and will say something like, “Breathing doesn’t work for me!

I usually suggest we try and practice it together and after doing a five minute breathing and meditation exercise, my clients inevitably appear much more relaxed, less anxious and are able to access resources inside of them five minutes earlier they were not even aware of. I think this is how most of us learn to do anything — we just have to be willing to try it, and then practice until we develop confidence in our abilities.

But when we are feeling anxious, it can be hard to believe that breathing can really make much of a difference. I had a client years ago who came to my office visibly distressed and I suggested we try a breathing exercise. He reluctantly agreed and afterwards, I thought he appeared calmer, seemed less distracted and was able to focus on our conversation.

I asked him how felt after doing this breathing exercise and he thought about it for a second and said, “Well I guess I feel a little bit better.” I nodded thinking this was progress, but he didn’t seem to agree. To him, feeling “a little bit better” wasn’t significant enough and he described the relief he felt as just a “drop in the bucket.”

If you’ve ever had a leaky faucet, you’ve probably discovered just how quickly a bucket can fill up with what seems like very slow drops. But I think many of us tend to think like my client and dismiss feeling “a little bit better” as not being significant enough to make a difference. But I disagree! If you feel a little bit better, that is still better!

And if you are willing to keep practicing, you will feel a little bit better, and a little bit better, until eventually, you will feel a lot better. So, if you are feeling immobilized by anxiety right now, it helps to break things down into small enough steps you are 90% certain you can achieve, even if it’s something as simple as putting one foot on the floor, putting another foot on the floor, getting up and brushing your teeth. If you have been procrastinating getting out of bed for hours due to anxiety or depression, then getting up and brushing your teeth is progress!

I’ve overcome enormous adversity in my own life and I know from my own experience change doesn’t happen in a quantum leap, it happens little by little, bit by bit and you have to practice taking small enough steps that you actually achieve. And it helps to remind yourself that feeling a little bit better is still better!

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Getty image via max-kegfire