How to Reduce Anxiety in Just Five Minutes

Yes it’s a trick – but it’s a good one. It’s a trick that fools our body into thinking that the danger has passed and so it can stop producing adrenaline and reacting as if life-threatening danger is present.

Not as advanced as we think we are

The problem is not the anxiety; it’s that we’re under-evolved. Our bodies were designed for life around 100,000 years ago when our only mode of transport was our legs and we could only communicate with others by speaking directly to them. There were no employers. There was no money. No bills to pay. And if someone threatened us it was perfectly acceptable to club them over the head.

Danger was always immediate and dealt with when it arose. You didn’t have to go away and worry about the whether the lion was going to eat you in three weeks time. You worried about the lion when it was in front of you and you stopped worrying as soon as the danger had passed. If you were hungry you went out and found some food – you didn’t sit in your mud hut for three days wondering what you were going to do because you were starving.

The adrenaline boost, otherwise known as the fight or flight response, was designed to give you more energy in emergency situations. It was always followed by physical action – running away, climbing a tree, or sticking your spear into something. That physical action cleared it out of your system and after a rest you were good to go.

That was fine and perfect for the life humans once lived.

But then they started thinking.

Too much thinking

One of the things about the body-mind is that it has a tough time telling the difference between imagination and reality. Your body responds to your imagination as if what you were imagining was real. If you don’t believe this just spend a few moments thinking about a lemon. Imagine holding it in your hand, feeling the texture, squeezing it just a little. Then hold it under your nose and inhale that deliciously fresh lemon scent. Then place the lemon on your kitchen counter, pick up a knife and cut it in two. Notice the juice oozing out onto your counter. Can you smell it? Pick up one of the pieces, stick out your tongue and squeeze a few drops of juice onto your tongue.

Now notice the increased salivary activity in your mouth.

There was no lemon.

Imagination is more powerful than reality

Your imagination is so powerful that when you think fearful thoughts – thoughts about something you don’t like or don’t want in your life – your body responds as if you were in real danger. It releases adrenaline, pushes the heart rate up, increases blood pressure, increases respiration rate and a whole bunch of other stuff that you won’t like.

When your life is such that you are worried most of the time, then this situation becomes chronic and your body never gets the break it needs.

So start to notice those times when something happens that causes you to worry. Then notice that your thoughts are focusing on an imagined future. You are predicting all the things that could go wrong, all the worst case scenarios. This is true even if something bad has already happened. You will be imagining life now in the presence of the bad thing having happened – imagining how difficult life will be now, for instance.

Very, very rarely is anything bad happening right now. If something bad is happening right now then do what you can to protect yourself or escape from the situation. If nothing bad is happening right now then that means it either has happened or you imagine it will happen. So recognise this and then notice your breathing.

I mentioned earlier that part of the fight/flight response is increased respiration rate. So notice your breathing and start to slow it down. Slow it down by slowly, a little at a time, deepening your breath.

Slow it down

Most of us, most of the time, breathe quite shallowly into the middle part of our lungs. So place your hand on your abdomen, about the area of your navel, and take the breath into the lower part of your lungs so that you push your hand out. When you breathe out, really pull in your abdominal muscles so that you expel all of the breath – this will pull your hand in towards your spine. It may take a few breaths to get used to this, but once you’ve got it then start to slow down the rate at which you breathe in and out. Really slow down the breath. Breathe as slowly as you can. If you feel any sense of discomfort or breathlessness then just take a few normal breaths before returning to abdominal breathing. Do this for around five minutes.

Good trick

This is the trick I mentioned at the beginning. Slow, relaxed breathing is associated with peace and tranquillity, not danger. So as you establish this easy, relaxed breathing pattern, your body-mind gets the message that everything is ok and we don’t need to do the fight/flight thing any more. This breathing technique breaks the cycle that maintains the anxiety state. It also distracts you from whatever your worry thoughts were because rather than breathing automatically, as we do most of the time, you have taken breathing under conscious control and that takes mind effort and re-directs your thoughts.

Try it and see what happens.

If you want to find out more about how to reduce anxiety check out my video The ABC of Anxiety Relief which goes into a little more detail. It’s only a little over ten minutes long.

If you prefer to read than watch then have a look at my book Change Your Life with Self Hypnosis which is bursting with simple solutions to anxiety and other problems that cause life to be less than we would wish it to be. But it’s a little more than that. It is a training course in discovering how to be Master of your Mind, rather than allowing your mind to be the master of you.



Reduce Anxiety, Easily and Quickly.

Anxiety disorders affect 40 million adults in the US – that’s about 1 in every 5 people. If you suffer from chronic anxiety, then you know that life is really difficult. Because it’s in your mind, you cannot escape from it and you take it with you everywhere you go. It even accompanies you when you go away on holiday. It affects your relationships, your ability to earn a decent living, and your ability to relax and have some fun.

Anxiety is not an easy thing to impact simply because it fills your mind and there isn’t much space left to take any sort of control – but it is possible to impact your anxiety states. It is even possible to impact them without drugs, alcohol or any other artificial means. You have a natural anxiety-reducing system built right in to your body. What you may not know is that you use your natural anxiety-reducing system all day long, but you don’t use it the right way. It’s easy to learn how to use it properly. But, and this is what stops most people, you need to set aside just a few minutes each day to hone and develop your skill with this technique. Without that effort it is nowhere near as effective.

It also takes a little while to build up the skill that you need for it to begin to be useful. Most people want the instant results they get with drugs or alcohol and are not prepared to develop coping skills when they require effort. Effort, I know, is difficult when the anxiety is severe. Effort that produces no immediate results and requires time to have an impact is also difficult for most people and they give up. But, I suspect that giving up, rather than persevering through to success is a characteristic of people who suffer from severe anxiety. But that is just the result of training and environment – it is not an aspect of personality, and it can be changed.

This technique requires an investment of 5 minutes twice a day.

Here is where I tell you what it is and you experience the big let down. It isn’t magic. It isn’t amazing it’s just your breath – but hang on, you’ve read this far, you might as well waste another two minutes of your life and read the rest of it.

Your breath is extremely powerful.

It is also ‘hot-wired’ into your anxiety system. Because it is hot-wired into your anxiety system you can use it to reduce anxiety.

All you need to do is to get yourself a straight-backed chair (a dining-type chair). Sit, both feet on the floor, hands resting comfortably and then breathe. There are three areas of your lungs that you can move breath into. First, the lower abdominal area. Put your hands on your rib cage and push your stomach out as you breathe in. There should be no expansion of the rib area. If you can feel rib expansion under your hands then you need to deepen your breath. Push your stomach out for the in-breath and then pull it right in for the out-breath. Do this for several breaths and then breathe normally.

This is abdominal breathing.

Now breathe into the middle part of your chest. Put your hands on your abdomen to make sure your abdominal area stays still and expand your rib cage with your breath. Again, do this for several breaths until you get the hang of it and then take several normal, relaxed breaths.

Finally, and this is the most difficult, so don’t worry too much if you don’t get this, it takes a bit of practice. The very top area is around your collar bones. This is a very small space to breathe into and breaths are shallow. Shallow breathing is associated with anxiety attacks so notice when you do this if you start to feel anxious. If you do that’s great because you have a direct example of the power of your breath to affect how you feel. You will be able to stop those feelings, if they arise, by just resuming normal breathing. But don’t let this worry you – do it anyway.

So, one hand on the abdomen, the other on the ribcage (to ensure you are not breathing into these areas). Breathe into the very top of your lungs. If you can’t get this, don’t worry it’s not as important as the other two. But before you give up on it, you might try breathing into the rib cage and then, once your ribs are fully expanded, lift yourself up and breathe into the space at the very top of your spine.

Now you are ready.

Hands resting comfortably, feet flat on the floor, breathe slowly into your abdominal area, then when that is full move the breath into the rib area, and when that is full, and only if you can, breathe into the top of your lungs. Then let the breath out comfortably.

Take several breaths in this fashion so that you get used to the rhythm and then rest by returning to your normal breath.

Now, return to doing full breaths, but now that you are used to the rhythm, see if you can slow the breath down. Breathe in as slowly as you can and then breathe out as slowly as you can. If you experience any shortness of breath, then relax, breathe normally for a few breaths and then return to full breaths.

If you can get into the habit of doing full, slow breaths for five minutes twice a day that will be really good.

What happens with this training is that because you are focused on the breath, anxiety thoughts retreat into the background. Because the anxiety thoughts retreat, you feel calmer. Then as you continue to train yourself, a conditioned reflex is created whereby as soon as you start to do full breaths you will feel a sense of calmness coming over you. And I think you’ll agree, you can breathe wherever you are, so you have a built in calming mechanism that is available instantly and invisibly.

Good luck with this and don’t forget to post a comment, or questions, below.