Good news if you’re among the millions who suffer from anxiety: acupuncture can help. A 2021 systematic review and meta-analysis of 20 randomized controlled trials showed that acupuncture can significantly decrease anxiety — no surprise, since it’s profoundly relaxing for the central nervous system. If you know someone who’s struggling, please encourage them to seek help.
Almost everyone I work with gets a breathing exercise (or several) because breathing is the fastest way to affect the nervous system. When someone is panicking and hyperventilating, the old breathing-into-a-paper-bag trick helps because the person is re-breathing the carbon dioxide-rich air that they’ve just exhaled.
Try this: inhale, and then breathe out all your air and hold your breath on empty. You’ll likely start to feel a little anxious, because the body knows it needs oxygen to breathe. But if we can get used to having higher levels of carbon dioxide circulating in our bodies, it’s easier to stay calm.
To increase your carbon dioxide tolerance –and thus your capacity for calm– try this practice: Inhale through the nose, filling up your low belly and chest. Breathe all the way out through your nose and hold empty as long as you can, up to 30 seconds. Repeat 8 times, once or twice a day.