Powerful Tool For Anxiety and Panic Relief

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Sometimes simple breathing techniques are all that’s required to keep anxiety from escalating, but occasionally we need more advanced coping methods for relief.

The Inhale-Hold-Exhale is a more advanced breathing technique that can effectively defuse both severe anxiety and panic attacks. However, it’s a skill that needs to be acquired during periods of calm.

Practicing Inhale-Hold-Exhale several times will create the confidence needed to use this technique when distress strikes.


To practice Inhale-Hold-Exhale, find a quiet spot where you can work for about 15 to 20 minutes. Sit with your back straight, shoulders and neck relaxed, then do ten rounds of the following three-step breath cycle:

  1. Inhale for the count of 5 heartbeats.
  2. Hold your breath for the count of 7 heartbeats.
  3. Exhale for the count of 9 heartbeats.

Monitoring heartbeats is recommended for this exercise since it keeps the breathing rhythm steady and focuses the mind. When inhaling, make sure to fill the belly first, and then the chest.

Individuals with heart conditions should not use this technique.

Why It Works

The Inhale-Hold-Exhale technique is powerful because it:

  • Calms the nervous system by slowing the breath.
  • Calms the mind by focusing it on the present moment (counting heartbeats).
  • Normalizes CO2 levels through holding the breath; this diminishes any effects of hyperventilation.

Remember, practice is key with this technique since it’s difficult to focus thoughts and count heartbeats when intensely anxious or experiencing panic. Yet, once mastered, it is an effective tool for putting the brakes on escalating symptoms.

Source: Calm Clinic
Photo credit: Ashlee Martin

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