How Do I Practice Deep Breathing for Anxiety?

Tips for Practicing Diaphragmatic Breathing for Social Anxiety

Use deep breathing to reduce anxious thoughts.
Deep breathing can help to quell anxiety. Getty / Dorling Kindersley / John Freeman

Diaphragmatic breathing, or deep breathing from the diaphragm rather than the chest, is a great way to relax and reduce anxiety.

Although we are all capable of breathing this way, very few of us actually do so on a daily basis.

Practice this breathing pattern while you are in a relaxed and safe environment. This way, you will be more likely to use this technique when faced with situations that trigger the symptoms of social anxiety disorder (SAD).

For those who suffer with medical conditions, please consult with your doctor prior to beginning any type of relaxation training exercise.

How to practice diaphragmatic breathing

  1. Find a quiet place free of distractions. Lie on the floor or recline in a chair, loosen any tight clothing and remove glasses or contacts. Rest your hands in your lap or on the arms of the chair.
  2. Place one hand on your upper chest and the other hand on your stomach. Inhale, taking a deep breath from your abdomen as you count to three. As you inhale you should feel your stomach rise up. The hand on your chest should not move.
  3. After a short pause, slowly exhale while counting to three. Your stomach should fall back down as you exhale.
  4. Continue this pattern of rhythmic breathing for five to ten minutes.

In addition to following these instructions, you may consider listening to a voice recording such as the free MP3 audio file offered by McMaster University which includes directions on practicing diaphragmatic breathing.

Use of an audio recording allows you to fully relax and concentrate on the technique.

Read Next: How Do I Practice Mindfulness Meditation for Social Anxiety?


Anxiety Treatment Australia. Slow Breathing to Decrease Anxiety and Panic. Accessed January 31, 2016.

McMaster University. Guided Relaxation CD. Accessed January 31, 2016.