Do you have issues with hyperventilating? This common symptom of anxiety is hard to deal with, and it’s not something you can just shake off. Anxiety is an issue that plagues millions of people around the world, and living with this condition is never easy.
Anxiety can be mild or severe, and regardless of the severity of your case, you want relief. The key is to learn effective coping skills, but it’s a long process that doesn’t happen overnight. Hyperventilating is especially a scary part of a panic state because you feel like you can’t breathe.
Without breath in your body, you will soon pass, or so the mind thinks. However, you need to realize that anxiety is the great pretender, and when you’re hyperventilating, your body is responding to the current rush of cortisol in your body.
Now anxiety isn’t the only reason you may hyperventilate, and your body may do this after exercise or during an asthma attack. However, it’s essential to understand what’s happening so that you know how to combat it.
When you go to the doctor’s office, they check your respiration rate, which is how many times you breathe in a minute’s time. The average amount of breaths is between 15-20, but it depends on your age. When someone hyperventilates, they’re breathing faster than usual, so you lose more carbon dioxide than you should.
Your blood gas is a perfect balance, and when you expel all this extra carbon dioxide, it throws everything off-kilter. Naturally, you will feel confused, like you’re going to pass out, and dizzy. The key is to calm yourself to prevent any further complications.
Understanding Feeling “Short of Breath”
When you feel “short of breath,” it’s called dyspnea, and it’s often caused by having issues with your lungs or heart. This issue usually comes on suddenly and is often observed from those who are in poor health. It’s usually resolved by giving a person oxygen or doing breathing exercises.
Bradypnea is when a person is not taking in enough oxygen because they are breathing too slowly. This is often observed in someone who has sleep apnea or has taken too many drugs and overdoses. The exact opposite of this condition is tachypnea, which is when a person is breathing too fast.
Your lungs only have so much room to hold air, and your body may breathe faster, trying to get sufficient air if there’s a lung issue like COPD. Your body is trying to accommodate for the lack of oxygen by speeding up you’re breathing. Lastly is hyperpnea.
The person suffering from hyperpnea is taking in more air than they need, but there are no signs of breathing faster. Many people have this issue when they exercise, or they have a medical problem like sepsis that makes the lungs work overtime. It’s often that people hyperventilate during this state.
Ways to Stop Hyperventilating
Now that you know what’s going on inside the body when you hyperventilate, you need to know how to fix it. Thankfully, regardless of whether this is caused by asthma, a medical condition, or anxiety, you can take steps to ease the issue. Here are the most common ways to stop hyperventilating.
1. Use A Paper Bag
The idea behind using a paper bag is simple; you inhale all the Co2 you expelled into the bag back into your lungs. When you put the Co2 right back into your system, it balances out your blood. Many people find that they can ease their breathing by using this easy trick.
While some say this works well, the jury is still out on whether it’s medically useful. A word of warning is that you should never do this for more than nine breaths, and you shouldn’t try this if you have a lung or heart problem. Just remember it must be a paper bag and not plastic.
2. Use A Mental Distraction
Mental distractions work great when you’re breathing too fast. Instead of focusing on the situation, which will only make it worse, try focusing on something else. Find an object and go to your happy place.
You will find it easier to calm yourself when you take a mental trip to somewhere relaxing.
3. Use Mindfulness
Another helpful tip that goes along with mental distractions is mindfulness. This is commonly used with DBT therapy, and it seems to be wildly successful. Basically, you learn to live within the moment.
Stop focusing on your breathing and find five things around you. If you’re sitting in your bedroom when it happens, notice the color of the room, any sounds you hear, things you can feel and touch against your skin, and any smells wafting about.
Finding something in the room that you can call out to ground you helps you switch your focus from breathing to something else.
4. Hold Ice Cubes
Holding ice cubes might not be your cup of tea, but it’s shown to be especially useful in handling breathing issues from anxiety. The brain cannot focus on two sensations at once. For instance, your panic cannot exist in your brain when it’s focused on the cold feeling in your hands.
Roll the ice cubes around within both hands as long as you can stand it. The chances are that by the time the ice is melted, your breathing will return to normal.
5. Take A Walk
Taking a walk is not advisable if you’re having an asthma attack, but it can do wonders for anxiety. As soon as your body hits the fresh air, you’ll feel an instant calm.
If the weather permits, take off your shoes and feel the ground beneath your feet. Breathe in the air from mother nature and watch your breathing rate normalize.
6. Try Rhythmic Breathing
Rhythmic breathing is a trick that many psychologists teach their patients who suffer from anxiety. Since you need your breath to live, this technique teaches you to harmonize your breathing. When you learn these rhythmic patterns, your nervous system will calm as well as relax your body.
Additionally, you will take in more oxygen and enhance your focus and concentration. It’s hard to get comfortable when you’re breathing fast but do the best you can. You want to inhale to the count of seven through your nose and hold it for the count of seven.
Now, slowly exhale your breaths through your mouth for the count of seven. If you do about ten repetitions of this, you will notice your breathing is better, and you will feel amazing. This is a simple way to restore your breathing and increase your concentration.
7. Wear Non-Restrictive Clothes
If you’re having an ongoing issue with hyperventilating, you need to change your attire to see if it helps. Avoid belts and anything that might be restrictive around the waist and lungs. While it might not prevent the issue, it can help you breathe more comfortably if there are no restrictions.
8. Lose Weight
Another common reason why you may feel out of breath all the time is your weight. Have you packed on a few pounds? Losing even 10 percent of your body weight can have a significant impact on your overall breathing.
Remember, fat pushes against your major organs and can make your daily functioning difficult. Losing weight can be a significant benefit.
9. Keep A Fast-Acting Inhaler with You
Whether you have asthma or not, doctors will often prescribe a bronchodilator to those who have problems with breathing. When you start a spell where your breathing is too fast, you can often slow it by taking a few puffs from your inhaler.
10. Use Self-Talk
Sometimes you need to reassure yourself that you’re okay. Remember, anxiety can put all sorts of things into your head, even if you have a verifiable condition like asthma. Remind yourself that you are not going to die, and this breathing issue will soon pass.
Use positive affirmations and speak things to yourself that are calming and reassuring. Most cases of hyperventilating resolve within a matter of seconds.
Final Thoughts on Hyperventilating
Hyperventilating is very scary and can make you feel as if you are going to die. Even if an underlying medical issue causes the situation, it’s easy for panic to slip in and make the matter worse. The very worst thing that can happen is that you will pass out from the drop in your blood gasses, and then your body will start breathing normally.
If you notice that you hyperventilate often, then it’s worth a trip to the doctor. If you’re suffering from anxiety and panic, it’s a very treatable condition. Additionally, you may find that therapy is an excellent help for you to learn to control your fears.
Lastly, if there is an underlying medical condition like asthma or heart disease, then you need to have a medical team working with you to control the problem.