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  • Writer's pictureStacy G. Smith, MS, LPC

Overcoming Anxiety: Tip #19

Taking a deep breath is one of the most basic, yet powerful, anxiety-reducing skills we can practice. It can be practiced anytime, anywhere, and requires nothing but ourselves. While it can never be overused, it is very often underused, especially when we begin feeling anxious.

During moments of anxiety, we find ourselves taking short, shallow breaths. While not intentional, these shallow breaths only serve to make our anxiety worse. Shallow breathing mimics the effects of hyperventilation, which can cause us to feel lightheaded and experience chest pain. If short, shallow breaths continue, one may experience a panic attack.

Taking long, deep breaths can instantly reduce the intensity of your anxiety, and prevent a panic attack from developing. Here's how to get started:

Step 1: Become mindful of your breathing. Notice your breath - in and out. Taking this pause helps to focus your mind on the present moment, and away from any distractions that may be contributing to your anxiety.

Step 2: Practice taking a long, deep breath in to the count of 5, then exhaling to the count of 6. To ensure you are taking deep breaths, place one hand on your chest, the other on your stomach - make sure your stomach is the one expanding in and not, not your chest.

Short, shallow breaths come from your chest.

Long, deep breaths come from your diaphragm.

It can be helpful to set aside 60 seconds, 3x/day, to simply take long, deep breaths - in and out. The more practice you give to noticing your breath, the easier this skill will come to mind when feeling intense moments of anxiety.


DISCLAIMER: The blog posts shared on contain the opinions of Stacy Smith, MS, LPC, and do not reflect the opinions of any organizations or affiliates. While Stacy is a licensed mental health professional, all blog posts on her site are for informational purposes only, and are never a substitute for professional advice catered to your individual needs. Stacy Smith is not liable for any diagnosis, treatment plans, or decisions made based on the information presented on this website. Furthermore, commenting on posts does not mean a treatment relationship has been established with Stacy Smith.​

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