Shallow breathing

Shallow breathing & anxiety symptoms

Shallow breathing, which many of us habitually do, can cause many symptoms that can be very worrying, such as: chest pain, light headedness, dizziness, feeling faint, trouble concentrating/thinking, muscular tension and rapid heartbeat, all of which are also symptoms of anxiety and stress.

Shallow breathing can be caused by anxiety but also by habit, allergies, asthma, obesity, bad posture and studies have shown that even working on a computer can contribute to this problem.
When holding ourselves still for long periods of time and doing low energy work, we tend to breathe in a very shallow manner.

If using a laptop the keyboard is smaller causing the keys to be closer together and this creates “shoulder scrunch” with tense muscles and reduced circulation.  Using the mouse in the middle of the keyboard further scrunches the body and can reduce the capacity to breathe fully.

Shallow breathing doesn’t mean you need more oxygen. It actually means that you’re over-breathing – you’re breathing out carbon dioxide too quickly, before your body has a chance to make more.

If you do this for too long, you hyperventilate. The problem is that hyperventilation makes your body feel like you’re not getting enough oxygen. Essentially, it makes you feel like you need to take deeper breaths and take in as much air as possible. This makes all of the symptoms of hyperventilation worse.

For all of these reasons, shallow breathing is one of the most important things to control when you have anxiety.
Firstly, try to notice when you’re shallow breathing and notice what you’re doing to contribute to it. Ie take note of your posture, body tension, depth of breathe etc.

Secondly learn to slow down your breathing. Try taking very slow, very deliberate breaths. Take at least 5 seconds to breathe in opening the chest as you do so. Hold for 2 -3 seconds. Then breathe out for 6 to 7 seconds. This will help you regain some of your carbon dioxide while still allowing you to breathe comfortably.

It is useful to also consider enrolling in a yoga or meditation class, both involve breathing re-training. You’ll need to remind your body how to breathe in a healthier way, so that you don’t continue to shallow breathe when unaware.

You could also have an Osteopathic treatment to help open up and relax the thoracic, shoulder and neck areas.