With one hand on my chest and the other on my belly, I draw in air gently and steadily, counting 1-and-2-and-3, pausing at the top. I then let the warm air out softly and unwaveringly, counting 1-and-2-and-3, pausing at the bottom. In through my nose, feeling the rise of my chest. Out through my lips, feeling the expansion of my belly. I start again, repeating the cycle a few times more, blowing the air out in each round until my heart reaches its normal tempo. Eventually, I find some calmness…

Everyone who has had to deal with abnormal feelings of anxiety knows the benefit of the kind of deep and focused breathing that I describe above. Those who practice yoga can associate with this breathing in the form of pranayama. In the Buddhist tradition, it is practiced in the form of breath meditation. As I started to pay more attention to my breathing (helped by my yoga practice and therapy), I quickly learned that my breathing in its normal state was often shallow and irregular. I’d hold my breath and forget to breathe. Evidently, many people do this and develop bad breathing habits during their lifetime. Unfortunately, bad breathing habits aggravate anxiety, and so I have had to learn to make a habit of breathing more deeply, steadily and mindfully.

What I am experiencing is what others might call as a midlife anxiety. I am restless and I worry a lot. There are days when I worry about things as mundane as laundry and home repair jobs, and there are days when I worry about life in general and the future. The deaths of my mother and a very dear great aunt has caused me to worry about the passage of time and how little of it remains. I find myself worrying about wasting time and not being in control of my future. When I feel anxious, my heart beats rapidly and my muscles get tense. I become restless and irritable. I feel tired and get short-tempered with others. Often I feel depressed. Some people report a variety of other physical and emotional sensations when experiencing anxiety.

I find that certain activities help get rid of my anxiety such as running, practicing yoga, dancing, walking, writing, taking photos, traveling or going outdoors and getting some sun; I need to be busy and active. However, I find that the simplest and most effective course of action is to focus on my breathing.

I don’t think anyone has been immune to feelings of anxiety in their lifetime. So remember, when overcome with angst, it helps to just breathe.