How To Calm Anxiety Instantly With One Simple Breathing Exercise

Finally get some relief.

woman doing breathing technique Yolya Ilyasova / Shutterstock

Staying calm may have been one of your biggest challenges as you faced the pandemic and found yourself experiencing unprecedented levels of anxiety.

It’s war mode and your common enemy is a virus, invisible and silent. But in order to keep calm, you'll need to employ one simple trick: A breathing exercise.

Unlike traditional wars, we're all in this together.

If there was ever a time to need direction on how to calm down, it’s now. 


One of the best anxiety "first aid" tips is simply this: use your belly — for breathing, that is.

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Since levity can be immune-boosting, perhaps let's call it the "coronavirus belly dance."

I’m referring to deep belly breathing, otherwise known as diaphragmatic breathing.

It pushes out your waistband and signals your body’s alert system that you are safe, allowing you to let go of your state of alarm.

In other words, you can calm down, just by doing this type of breathing — anywhere, anytime. And it's always there for you, in your control.


What are the steps?

Here’s how to calm down using belly breathing:

1. Place one hand on your chest.

2. Place the other hand on your belly.

3. Breathe in through your nose, directing air to your belly as you feel your belly rise. Keep the hand on your chest still, in order to focus your breathing on your belly.

4. Repeat for 10 breaths.

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Give it a try right now while you're reading. You can do belly breathing when sitting, lying down, or standing up — in fact, some recommend trying it in different positions throughout the day.

The more you do it, the better you'll get at it. And it's there for you anytime, anywhere; all you’re doing is breathing, just differently.

While you’re breathing, try to name the precise trigger for your anxiety.

Are you afraid someone you know will be hit hard by the pandemic? Or that you will be?

Are you anxious that you’ll be unable to pay the bills due to lost work? Or be able to retire when planned because of the economic fallout?

Are you concerned you can’t visit loved ones or keep vacation and travel plans?


Whatever your anxiety is, name it and then try belly breathing some more.

Notice what happens in your body as you breathe deeply.

No matter the reason was that you started this belly “dance,” notice the calm you feel as you send breath to the deepest parts of your lungs.

This simple strategy provides immediate relief and sends powerful neurological signals to our brain that you're OK.


Knowing how to calm down and ground yourself can be important as you cope with the many anxieties of this pandemic.

Taking control of your breath is a powerful way to rebalance your emotional equilibrium, something we all will need increasingly.

When so much seems so out of control, it can be empowering to know you can control your breathing, and thus your anxiety to a large degree.

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Dr. Alicia Clark is a psychologist specializing in anxiety and relationships. For more help managing anxiety, check out her book, Hack Your Anxiety, and register for a free mini e-course by signing up for book bonuses here.