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Taming Invisible Tigers (Diaphragmatic Breathing)

by Beverly Ward

Still Waters Counseling Center

November 13, 2022

From Science: How long can you hold your breath? The average person can hold their breath for 30 to 90 seconds. The world record for holding breath is held by a Croatian Free-Diver, Budimir Sobat, who held his breath for an astounding 24 minutes and 37.36 seconds. Can you think of anything other than breathing that you can't go without for 90 seconds? I can’t. Breath is vitally important to life. A certain type of breathing, diaphragmatic breathing, is critical in stopping panic. Let’s look at this more closely.

Diaphragmatic Breathing (DB), also known as Belly Breathing, is so named because it involves the largest respiratory muscle, the diaphragm. DB is not the way most people typically breath. It is, however, the way babies typically breath. If you watch a baby breath, you will see their bellies fill up like a balloon as they inhale, and empty when they exhale. Somewhere along the way, we unlearn this helpful practice. But, learning and practicing Diaphragmatic Breathing is known to be the most effective way to stop panic or bodily symptoms of anxiety. Such symptoms include: rapid heart rate, rapid, shallow breathing from the chest, sweating, nausea and/or upset stomach, tightness in your chest, trembling and/or shaking, a feeling of detachment from reality, and a sense of impending doom.

Panic feels terrible and having a way to stop it is great news for anyone who has ever experienced it. When we panic, the symptoms we feel are caused by activation of the Sympathetic Nervous System (SNS). The SNS controls the well-known “Fight or Flight Response”, which is what causes the symptoms of panic. To stop the Fight or Flight response, we need to engage the Parasympathetic Nervous System (PNS). The PNS controls the lesser know “Relaxation Response”, which calms the nervous system and stops the Fight or Flight Response. DB engages the PNS and this is why and how it works to stop panic.

The key to DB being effective is doing it correctly. This is demonstrated in the video in the Lagniappe section of this article. Regular practice of Diaphragmatic Breathing increases it's effectiveness and is good for our overall health in many impressive ways (see the second video for more on this).

From Scripture: Scripture does not say anything about Diaphragmatic Breathing, but what it has to say about breath lets us know that it is powerful and vital to life. Scripture tells us that, after God created Adam from dust, He brought life to him by breathing into his nostrils. We are also told that all scripture is “God breathed” and that, when Jesus breathed on the disciples, they received the Holy Spirit. These are just a few of the many instances in scripture where we see God using His breath to create, impart, and empower.

Scripture also talks about the breath of humans, often referring to all who are living as “those who have breath”. Of course, God's breath is supernaturally different than our breath, but the scriptural picture of breath is that it is extremally powerful.

Action Plan: Watch the first video in the Lagniappe section, “Taming Invisible Tigers", to learn how to do DB effectively, then begin to practice DB regularly.

Even if you have never experienced panic, DB is good for your health in many ways. Watch the second video in the Lagniappe section to learn many of the benefits of regular practice of DB.


Taming Invisible Tigers (Diaphragmatic Breathing) by Still Waters Counseling and Education Center

Benefits of Diaphragmatic Breathing by FitMind