According to the Anxiety Disorders Association of America, anxiety disorders are the common mental illnesses in the country (1). It currently affects about 40 million people in the United States alone. Because of fear of social stigmas, it was determined that only about a third of people suffering from this problem seek treatment.
Different Kinds Of Anxiety
Generalized Anxiety Disorder: Characterized by unnecessary worry and catastrophizing. As a general rule of thumb, people with this disorder automatically think of the worst possible outcome in every situation.
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder: Having the inability to control unwanted thoughts or behaviours. People suffering from OCD preform daily rituals to help ease their anxiety. They may believe that failure to preform these tasks (like checking the stove or hand washing) will lead to disastrous consequences (like burning the house down or getting sick).
Panic Disorder: Characterized by episodes of intense fear that surface without warning, called panic attacks. Certain things may trigger these episodes, like talking in front of a crowd or getting on a plane. Panic disorder can lead to digestive problems and heart palpitations if not monitored and treated properly.
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD): Manifested as fear that persists long after the experience of a traumatic event. PTSD often occurs in veterans, child abuse survivors and crash victims. These fears are often triggered by sound or images but may also surface randomly.
What Is An Anxiety Attack?
An attack is “abrupt onset of intense fear or discomfort that reaches a peak within minutes.”
It usually presents 4 of the following symptoms:
- Palpitations, pounding heart, or accelerated heart rate
- Trembling or shaking
- Sensations of shortness of breath or smothering
- Feelings of choking
- Chest pain or discomfort
- Nausea or abdominal distress
- Feeling dizzy, unsteady, light-headed, or faint
- Chills or feeling hot
- Numbness or tingling
- Derealization (feelings of unreality) or depersonalization (being detached from oneself)
- Fear of losing control or “going crazy”
- Fear of dying
During an anxiety attack, the sufferer often feels like he or she can’t breathe.
“And when you don’t get enough oxygen, the brain receives a ‘danger’ signal, which perpetuates your mind-body state of anxiety,” explains Jonathan Davidson, M.D., director of the Anxiety and Traumatic Stress Program at Duke University Medical Center. “Your breathing quickens and becomes even more shallow; in an extreme case this can lead to a full-blown panic attack, in which the person begins to hyperventilate.”
Nostril Breathing And Anxiety
Yogis believe that the nose is directly linked to the brain and nervous system.
And so, alternate nostril breathing (called Nadi Shodhan) is believed to balance the left and right hemispheres of the brain.
A study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (3), found that slow diaphragmatic breathing proved just as effective in reducing anxiety as the antidepressant drug imipramine.
How Alternate Nostril Breathing Technique Can Ease Panic Attacks
It activates the parasympathetic nervous system: which gets you out of survival mode and back into relaxation.
It enhances respiratory function (3): which increase oxygen flow to the brain to help you focus on the present moment.
It improves attention and fine-motor coordination/performance: to help you regain control of your body and mind.
How to Practice Nadi Shodhana
Watch the video bellow to find out how to practice nostril breathing. All you need is a quiet and comfortable place to sit.
You can do it anywhere, at anytime, if you feel the need to reconnect with yourself. It’s just one of the many non-medicinal tools that can help you manage your anxiety.