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Why We Shouldn't Attack Katy Perry for Sharing What Helps Her Anxiety

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Sometimes the news isn’t as straightforward as it’s made to seem. Elizabeth Cassidy, The Mighty’s news reporter, explains what to keep in mind if you see this topic or similar stories in your newsfeed. This is The Mighty Takeaway.

On Monday, Katy Perry tweeted how she deals with her anxiety. She takes a breath through her nose and out her mouth. Simple, right? Well, for some Twitter followers, it was too simple, and they were quick to call her out.

Some sarcastically said Perry “cured” their anxiety with her words of wisdom.

Anxiety is hard to deal with, and if you have panic attacks, it can literally feel like it’s killing you. But we all have our ways of coping, and being judged for what we do is the last thing anyone needs when trying to fight off anxiety.

While I might be a tad bit jealous that breathing is enough for her (at least sometimes; who knows how bad her anxiety gets), I’m not going to judge her for sharing what has helped her. And neither should you.

Perry never told anyone to “breathe” to help their anxiety. She simply stated what helps her when she feels it coming on. It’s personal, and it works for her. It doesn’t mean it will work for you. Had Perry tweeted for people to “just breathe” and their anxiety would magically disappear, I’d be writing a very different article.

Perry also didn’t imply that breathing “cures” her anxiety, yet people were quick to say she was offering one. Unfortunately, there is no cure for anxiety, but coping mechanisms, like Perry’s, can help. Coping mechanisms can ease both anxiety and stress, and although these two are not the same, they do feed off each other.

Because anxiety is notorious for causing physiological changes (rapid heart rate, shortness of breath, etc), breathing exercises are a common coping mechanism. It works to counteract some of the physical symptoms. Breathing can also be used as a mindfulness tool by focusing on your breath and distracting yourself from anxious thoughts.

It’s unclear if Perry is talking about a specific breathing exercise, but some exercises do suggest breathing in through your nose and out through your mouth, the most common being simple deep breathing exercises. Other exercises are a little more advanced like alternate nostril breathing and 4-7-8 breathing, which is inhaling through the nose for 4 seconds, holding for 7 and exhaling for 8 out the mouth.

While Perry didn’t make this distinction, breathing exercises are typically easier when you feel anxiety coming on and not so much when you’re already in the thick of it — at least that’s what my therapist told me.

Some people on Twitter said they were glad it worked for her and wished it was that simple for them. Others agreed with Perry that breathing does help their anxiety and offered other breathing tips.

I understand that many of us who have anxiety are constantly hearing people say “just breathe,” “calm down,” “relax,” or some rendition of those. If it were that easy, we wouldn’t have anxiety. We’re tired of hearing ignorant advice because we know just how debilitating and hard to control anxiety is sometimes. This doesn’t give anyone an excuse to put down another person for using a strategy that may not work for everyone — no coping mechanism is universally helpful.

If breathing works for you, I’m genuinely happy you’ve found something to ease your anxiety. If it doesn’t work for you, I hope you’ve found or find something to help soon. Everyone is different, and as long as someone isn’t minimizing what you’re going through, we shouldn’t be quick to put them down.

Image via Creative Commons/sleepingbri

Originally published: April 4, 2018
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