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Health&Wellness,  Life with N

The Breathing Technique That Changed Things For Me

As I was sitting in that empty room back in December, it was clear that things needed to change. It was clear that my mental illness had tried to take me, and there I was piecing together a plan, of how to cope through.

I have generalized anxiety disorder.

If you don`t know what that is, I will give a quick rundown. Generalized anxiety disorder is a feeling of on-going stress and worry, to the point where it can be all you feel. It starts to interfere with your regular day-today activities. It can present on it`s own, or along with other mood/mental health struggles. It can make life quite difficult to manage through.

Symptoms of generalized anxiety disorder:

First, I`d like to point out that symptoms and mental illnessses and conditions look different on everyone. Anxiety on one person likely presents itself differently on another person. The following are simply known common symptoms of generalized anxiety disorder, but are in no way ALL the symptoms whatsoever.

  • Overthinking
  • Making plans to overcome WORSE-CASE scenarios
  • Difficulty handling uncertainty
  • Difficulty concentrating, or having a blank mind when trying to focus
  • Understanding situations to be very threatening even when they are not
  • Headaches
  • Muscle tension
  • Sweating
  • Fatigue
  • Troubled sleeping

Again, these are just SOME of the symptoms. These are in no way ALL of them.

I basically have every single one of these symptoms, every single day.

Life gets so discouraging when you are fighting these invisible things. On top of the anxiety disorder, I also have BiPolar 2 Disorder. A disorder that is not nearly known as much as BiPolar 1.

What you need to know about BiPolar 2 Disorder:

While BiPolar 2 is similar to BiPolar, there are differences very much worth noting. There are still the emotional highs and lows that one cycles through, though they may not be as intense.

Struggling with BiPolar 2 Disorder encompasses long bouts of depressions. Long, deep, and dark lows that seem to linger for what feels like forever.

Major Depressive Episode Symptoms:

A major depressive episode is characterized by symptoms that are so severe, that they interrupt your day-today life and activities.

  • Significant weight-loss, with no diet or work out plan in place.
  • Loss of interest in any hobbies/activities that were once enjoyed.
  • Loss of energy.
  • No motivation, or very little.
  • Sleeping pattern change. Insomnia or sleeping all the time.
  • Restlessness

The list, of course, continues. Again, symptoms are different and look different on everyone.

These two conditions kick my butt 90% of the time and leave me feeling a whole lot of nothing.

So when I was sitting there in that empty room talking about what I was going to do the next time I was having suicidal thoughts, it became very overwhelming. My mind went blank, and it felt like I couldn`t think. Though, I was trying so hard.

Slowly, but surely, the doctor and I pieced together a mental health crisis plan that I could remember, and found helpful. I became overwhelmed many times after leaving the hospital. I was in sheer shock of what I went through, for several days. This one breathing technique continued to ground me every single time.

5,4,3,2,1 Breathing

5 things you can see. Look around your environment and note 5 things you can see. It doesn`t matter what they are at all. You can just say it in your head, making this a useful tool when you are out and bombarded with anxiety, or if you are at home, you can verbally say them.

4 things you can hear. This really forced me to quiet my mind so I could hear what was going on. My surroundings were no longer just NOISE, but rather specific sounds.

3 things you can taste. Maybe it`s your coffee, or your toothpaste, but whatever it is, be mindful and take note of it.

2 things you can smell. It may take some focusing to really clue in on what you are smelling, but take those moments to be present and breath long deep breaths in and out.

1 thing you can feel. Are you sitting on a soft blanket? Or maybe you are standing in line at the grocery store holding the grocery cart.

Sometimes I get the numbers mixed up, but the point of it is to re-focus your brain.

Your mind can`t 100% focus on multiple things at once. So, if you can divert it, then you can bring back to your calm. Then you have a better chance of regaining control over it.

This breathing technique has brought me back from so many bad moments in the last two months now. It has brought me back to what my version of normal is.

My normal changes each day, and I`m learning that that is perfectly okay.

But in the moments where I feel I can`t handle how I am feeling, or I`ve lost control, I come back to this technique.

It has helped me more times than I can count in the last two months, and I am so grateful they taught me it at the hospital.

Do you have a go-to anxiety coping tool/technique?

Love Always, N

P.S. If you enjoyed this post, hop on over to my post talking about food and mental health!

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41 Comments

  • Susan Trevino

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  • Alison

    I often use this technique and it definitely works. I also use ‘box breathing’ where you breathe in, hold, breathe out, hold for equal counts. It’s amazing how much these simple tools can help 🙂

  • pennyrose88

    The breathing technique you mentioned is a good one, I do something similar. But just focus on certain points on my body. Toes, legs, arms, fingers, then maybe my senses. It’s a type of grounding. It doesn’t always help but it does sometimes. I have other coping mechanisms too. I suffer with depression and anxiety, and used to have selective mutism as a child. But I’m getting much better as time goes on. 😊 I’m sure you will too.

  • Kristina

    My therapist told me that one too! Though I think she had said 5 of everything? 🤔 anyway, the purpose is the same xD

    First thing I do in a panic-indusing situation is first to hold my breath… which may not be the greatest idea 😂 I have no idea why I even do that (I guess that must be better than hyperventilate though?) then I actually breathe and talk to myself. I use this alot at work when we get use rushes out of nowhere, everybody knows by now and my manager give me some « almost done! Good job.. keep going » as encouragement here and there.

    When I can and the panic come out of the blue at home, I just.. isolate, put on some music and try to shut off. My go to is mostly playing games, breathe, and just wait until it passes 🤷🏽‍♀️

  • Beth Gray

    One of the best tricks I’ve learned is using my breath to either calm OR stimulate me. With Celiac Disease I often get fatigued and tired. Sometimes, what I need it rest: send myself to bed. Other times, it’s more mental and emotional. But breathwork also works wonders for that!

    The ANS (autonomic nervous system) is amazing in this way:
    inhale longer = stimulate the ANS = more awake (or anxious if you suffer anxiety)
    exhale longer = relax the ANS = a little more tired and less anxious

    So – I use breathwork – I can use to stimulate or to relax!

  • Hazel @ Places + Peonies

    I have an anxiety disorder and OCD; my go to is basically to hug my cat. But if she’s not around then it’s to breathe and touch something near me. Like a wall or table. But sometimes remembering to do anything other than breathe can be really hard.

  • Nancy

    Breathing can help you in so many ways. I found myself having to take deep breaths when I am in stressful situations. They provide temporary relief from a mental health standpoint. Thanks for sharing all of these tips ♥

    Nancy ♥ exquisitely.me

  • The Newbury Girl

    First, did you recently re-do your blog header? Love how light and bright it looks!

    Second, I had never heard of the 54321 breathing technique but I like how this seems to route you back to the present by helping you to focus on your surroundings. When I’m feeling anxious, I try to do measured deep breathing just to recenter myself but I’m going to have to give this new method a try!

    • admin

      Yes I did re-do my blog header and absolutely touched that you noticed!!!! Thank you! Thank you so much for sharing how you cope with anxiety. Sending love💜

  • Emily

    I absolutely love this technique! My therapist taught it to me when I was going through EMDR treatment and it helped me SO much! I’m so glad it’s helped you too. I have really bad anxiety as well as depression, so this been a life saver in some cases. And I didn’t know there was a Bipolar 2 disorder. I’m sorry you suffer from it, but thank you for educating me about it since I didn’t know that it existed. Thank you for such an inspiring post and sharing one of my favorite breathing techniques! <3

    Emily | http://www.thatweirdgirllife.com

    • admin

      I’m so glad this technique helps you too. It’s made a very big difference in my life thankfully. Thank you so much for your meaningful comment💜

  • Sophie Naylor

    This is such an important post as GAD is so important to raise awareness of in today’s modern society. I really believe your breathing technique will help a lot of other anxiety sufferers, so thank you very much for this post x

  • Tiffany

    I had never heard of this method before, I think its great. I struggle with anxiety as well, have all my life. With that comes depression as well. Typically breathing techniques don’t work for me, they make me focus too much on something that is happening within me and only increases my stress. That need to make it balance out and run smooth. I love this idea of moving through your senses though. I see great results from grounding myself and distracting my focus on something outside of myself. This process hits both those, definitely going to try it!

    • admin

      Thanks so much for this meaningful comment. I can definitely relate to how you feel. It’s hard to find techniques that balance out if you struggle with more than one obstacle, which I’m sure so many do. I hope this one helps you. Feel free to reach out if you ever need support or anything 💜

  • Shana Seigler

    Have you tried tapping? I gave it a shot one day when I was so anxious that my breathing exercises weren’t working, and I was having chest pain. Surprisingly to me, the practice helped even though it seemed silly when I first hard about it.

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