Reduce panic and anxiety with this breathing technique
Plus a video explaining how to do the technique
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Breathing techniques are essential for people with ADHD.
They work instantly
They’re side-effect free
They give you mastery over your own condition
Point one might be most important — they work instantly.
As our ADHD brains are dominated by, what Tim Urban calls, the instant gratification monkey, we need technique with instant results.
At the end of this article, I share the exact technique I use whenever I feel a surge of anxiety or panic rising within me.
ADHD symptoms flare up in a range of different ways.
After poor sleep, it can be impossible to focus.
After a long day, it can be impossible to sleep.
During work, when focus doesn’t come, we beat ourselves up diving ever deeper into a pit of shame and despair.
What’s complicated about ADHD is that every single person experiences it differently. When you’ve met one person with ADHD, you’ve met literally ONE person with ADHD.
Although many of the behaviours, feelings and actions are similar, the individual experience is often, well, individual.
So prescribing cookie cutter advice is often futile.
Which is why I encourage you all to become the master of your own condition. To self-experiment, as I do, to find exactly what works for you.
This is also why I favour talking about techniques you can learn that will improve your ADHD symptoms, regardless of which one is affecting you right now.
Breathing techniques, as I often shorten to ‘Breathwork’, are an incredibly powerful tool in the ADHD arsenal, whether going drug-free or not.
Because there are breathing techniques that apply to each symptom:
Rapid breathing to energise you after a poor night’s sleep.
Calming breathing for when insomnia strikes.
Focus style breathing for when starting a task feels impossible.
I use breathing techniques throughout my day.
Immediately after waking up, I take two minutes to oxygenate my body — this is much more powerful than caffeine (with zero side effects).
Before starting work, I take another two minutes to energise myself by breathing rapidly with intermittent breath holds.
Throughout the work day I take two to four minutes every hour to do whatever breathing technique will help at the time.
Before meditation I do some box breathing - in and out to a count of four - to calm my heart rate which helps me focus.
I believe, via direct experience, breathing techniques (breathwork) to be one of the most important AND effective ways of managing ADHD.
So on that note, let’s do one now:
I call this technique, Panic Station.
When to use it?
When oncoming feelings of panic and distress arise, this technique will reduce hyperventilation and reduce your heart rate.
When you get bad news
When you’re nervous before a meeting
Before you speak in front of a group of people
Before starting a new job or school
If you’re struggling with a task and are on a tight deadline
This technique includes a short breath hold which balances carbon dioxide and oxygen levels, leading to a much calmer state. A calmer state = a clearer mind.
If your heart rate is high, you can use this to bring it back down.
A word on the science behind this technique:
Holding the breath after the exhale quiets the nervous system and dilates the arteries which brings you into a state of calm control. Doing so reduces the chance of hyperventilation during panic attacks.
All breathing is gentle and through the nose.
Inhale for 4 seconds
Exhale for 4 seconds
Hold for 5 seconds
Repeat for at least 3 minutes
If the feelings are still there, start again or continue until they feel manageable.
Here’s a video of me guiding you through the technique:
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