Breathwork for Depression and Anxiety Relief 

Which is the best breathing practice for you?

Have you ever found yourself spiraling into a bout of depression? Or found your head spinning out of control about one thousand things you have zero control over? It’s a normal Tuesday afternoon and suddenly you find yourself paralyzed with negative mind-chatter preventing you from being of any use to yourself or others. 

It’s so draining!!! But you can’t stop. The stories in your head are locking you into another spell of self-doubt and pity and you can’t find your way off this runaway train. 

There is a way to help, and you already have full access to it; it’s your breath. The trick is learning the right ways to utilize it for your best outcomes. 

Breathwork is amazing because it works for everybody. However, not all breathing patterns are right for everybody. 

There are literally hundreds of breathing patterns and ways to manipulate this very natural flow of energy. The best breath practice for you will vary and most likely change over time. As a general guide, there are 3 things you should look at when you decide to use breathwork as a way to relieve the stress factor associated with depression and anxiety. 

  1. Identifying your triggers
  2. Identifying your personal coping mechanisms
  3. Identifying what breathing practices feel most innately supportive to your nervous system

Taking a close look at these 3 things can help you find a starting point that will set you up for success in your breathing practices. The harder part is continuously showing up daily to do the breathwork. Breathwork is similar to meditation as it is developed over time and the more you show up, especially on the days you’d rather not, the closer you come to breaking barriers in your life that have previously held you back and kept you stuck.

Identifying your triggers

Triggers are those things in our environment that send our brains into survival mode. When you are having an emotional reaction to something or someone that feels out of your control or induces a strong desire to harm yourself or others you’re being triggered. If you have been through any trauma, then you understand how any reminder of that event triggers an emotional reaction that feels like you are experiencing the event all over again. 

As you start to identify your triggers you need to ask yourself if something is truly a trigger or if you are just uncomfortable, which would fall more under the lines of comfort zone barriers. Verywellmind.com has a great article that takes a closer look at triggers and what they mean that I found helpful. 

Not only will identifying your triggers be helpful for your personal growth, it is also the first step in narrowing the breath practices best suited for you. How you cope with these triggers is the next identifier to narrow even more. 

Identifying your personal coping mechanisms

Throughout your life, you have learned different strategies to help protect yourself when you sense danger. When your triggers signal the alarm your brain immediately starts putting things into play designed to keep you safe. Often these mechanisms are outdated and end up holding you back from growth. In turn, you end up full of unnecessary anxiety or become depressed. 

Survival mode looks different for everyone so it’s important to get to know how you cope. 

When you feel triggers do you…

  • Get angry and start moving into an aggressive state? 
  • Get frustrated and feel completely overwhelmed?
  • Fall into self-loathing and allow the thoughts of worthlessness to set in?
  • Feel hopeless and fall into destructive behavior?
  • Put on a happy face and bury all the pain until you feel like you might burst?
  • Feel victimized and look for someone else to blame?

Odds are you do one or many of these things. Other less common coping mechanisms might look like…

  • Netflix binging
  • Over or under eating
  • Procrastination
  • Excessive cleaning
  • Not getting out of bed

There are a ton of reasons we resort back to our patterns, and it stems from our reptilian brain working in survival mode. Becoming aware of how you cope when things feel out of control will give you a starting line for your breath journey. 

Breathwork is designed to support you

To simplify, when you get triggered your emotional center either rises to a head spin of thoughts and you get anxious, or you collapse, and start self-isolating, resulting in a more depressed outlook. 

When you invite breathwork to the table as a healthy way to cope and break free from these patterns, you will find that what works best for a more anxious system is different than what works best for a depressed system. Gauging on where you currently stand will be helpful. 

  • Do you hang out more in the fight or flight realm? 
  • Or the rest and recover realm?

Let’s take a look at both.

Fight or Flight

If you are someone who is easily anxious then we are talking about the Sympathetic Nervous System, or your fight or flight response system. The better place to start breathing is with more relaxed patterns. These calming practices help to guide your nervous system out of chaos and into a more relaxed or balanced state. 

For instance, if you are someone who copes by getting angry or gets overly anxious, then a more calming breath practice like 4-7-8 or 5×5 breathing would be more productive practice than something like circular breathing or breath of fire where you are consciously speeding up your breath. 

Allowing your exhales to be longer than your inhales slows down the mind and brings you out of panic and into balance. Balancing breathwork is always a great go-to when feeling triggers. Equal parts of inhales and exhales help both sides of the spectrum find balance. 5×5 breathing or 3-part breathing are both great starting points. 

Rest & Recover

The other side of this coin is those who carry a more depressed nervous system and lean towards the rest and recover or Parasympathetic Nervous System. Those who lose all energy when triggered. More active breathwork that brings the energy up will be the more effective way to start. Breathwork that activates the system like bellows breath that uses your stomach as a way to pump air quickly in and out, as well as more holotropic practices that double your breathing rate. Practice breathwork that really drives up your body’s energy and activates your nervous system. 

Bringing your energy levels up is going to be an important part of breaking patterns. You want to activate the heart by increasing the air and blood flow moving through it. This helps release feelings of lethargy. 

Breathwork is about learning how to live a healthy life by utilizing the power of your breath. Something we all have access to and with practice can more actively control. 

Any mindfulness practice comes with a certain amount of allowance. If you want change, you have to do something different, and this is where people get stuck. 

This is not an overnight pill out of anxiety or depression. Breathwork is a tool to add to your box to keep you mentally sound when you feel triggered and find yourself prone to certain unhealthy coping mechanisms. 

When you are interested in learning more and want a breath coach to keep you accountable, then check out Breath Mindset, my 4-week online breath course designed to help you breathe into a life you love. 

Get Comfortable Being Uncomfortable with a Glacier Dip at Mount Rainier

Experience the Transformative Power of a Cold Plunge with Lynar DeLuca

When was the last time you treated yourself to a day at Mount Rainier? The lustrous mountain that can be seen from almost all points of King County. We live so close, yet can go years without a visit. Join Lynar DeLuca of The Breath Academy, and myself, for a day of exploring the Naches Loop Trail with an added Glacier dip down at Dewey Lake. A day that won’t soon be forgotten. 

There is a reason that this is one of the most popular trails on Mount Rainer: 

  • The stunning views
  • The light elevation gain
  • Wildflowers galore
  • Easily accessible

Every time I find myself here I am captured by the beauty of Tahoma. A stunning reminder of this place we call home and a humbling reminder of how small we really are. 

When you join us on Sunday, August 14th, you too will experience this stunning hike, as well as the added bonus of a trip down to Dewey Lake.

Dewey Lake

This is the most challenging part of the trail and almost doubles the length of the hike from 3.2 to 6 miles in total. The added elevation gain keeps most explorers from traveling down. 

Not us! 

This is the fun part, not to mention the cooling-off part. 

Because we will be starting early, to beat the crowds and enjoy the peaceful morning, we will miss the midday heat. That being said, the trail does have some stretches of full sunshine. Proper sun protection should be considered as well as sturdy hiking shoes for the descent, and climb from the Lake. The summer sun also brings one other element…

Mosquitos!

Lynar and I decided to do a trial run of the event this past week and found to our chagrin that the lake hosted an abundance of tiny (and not so tiny) bloodsuckers. This did not stop us from enjoying our time at the lake, but it did put a damper on our breathwork. Because of this we strongly recommend a mosquito hood for protection as well as lightweight long sleeves and long pant attire. 

Time To Take The Plunge!

Once at the lake the fun begins! Well, I mean besides the army of mosquitos. The hot August sun has warmed this lake, but the melting snow keeps it at a refreshingly cool temp.

Here in this scenic retreat, you will be guided through some circular breathwork. Preparing your mind and body for the refreshing, cold glacier waters.

The breathwork will help to calm your nerves as your adrenaline begins to rise. After which you will have an opportunity to get your suits on, (yes, there will be a private changing space), and take a horse stance with us in the shallow end. As your feet take in the cold your mind will settle into focus. 

Now you are ready to take the plunge. 

Lynar is a 200-hr Certified Yoga Teacher and Breath Coach who has a passion for cold exposure and sharing its incredible benefits with other people. She has been practicing cold dips since moving to Washington almost 15 years ago and has been practicing breathwork for 5 years. Various breath practices have helped her relieve stress and anxiety, while cold exposure has helped her push past the limits of what the mind thinks is possible. 

Get Comfortable Being Uncomfortable

This is the moment you’ve been waiting for! And your opportunity to get comfortable being uncomfortable. During your 2 minutes submerged in the lake, Lynar and I will be with you the whole time. Breathing, humming, focusing, and guiding you through. Allowing you the time and space to find your inner stillness and come out stronger on the other side. 

After everyone has had an opportunity to feel the power of the cold, we will dry off, get dressed and head back up to the main trail to be rewarded by panoramic views of the mountain. Together we will enjoy some snacks and good conversation before finishing off the loop and heading home. 

Breathe in Nature

If you are looking for something fun to do this August and want to stretch yourself in a powerful way then this is the adventure for you!

This is the 5th installment of the Breathe in Nature series and one that all the members have been looking forward to. There are only a few spots remaining and we would love for you to join us. 

Read more about Breathe in Nature here and join us before it’s too late.