One of my best friends spent some time Monday sharing a bunch of links with me about hyperventilation syndrome (also called disordered breathing or over-breathing). I didn’t read all of the links, but I found a few really helpful ones that made me feel like I’m not just making this up.
From Breathing Works:
“Disordered breathing occurs when upper chest breathing, usually at a faster rate and through the mouth, becomes the dominant pattern of breathing. Disordered breathing can also include big sighs, yawning, breath holding, feelings of breathlessness, or feeling unable to take a good breath in or out. Over time, disordered breathing can cause a large variety of symptoms including dizziness, anxiety, pins and needles, chest pain or tension, blurred vision, feeling easily overwhelmed, and constantly on edge.”
“How do I know if I am over-breathing? You may not be aware that your breathing is wrong or you may be aware of some, or even all, of the following most commonly experienced symptoms:
(I have most of these, though some of them aren’t constant.)
- Frequent sighing and yawning
- Feeling breathless, even after relatively minor exercise
- Difficulty co-ordinating breathing and talking and/or eating
- Breathless when anxious or upset
- Pins and needles in hands/arms/around mouth
- Feeling permanently exhausted and unable to concentrate for no apparent reason
- Throat symptoms (I clear my throat constantly)
- Muscular aches and tension around the neck/shoulders/jaw
- Bloated feeling in the stomach
- Light headedness
What causes these symptoms?
When we over-breathe we eliminate large quantities of carbon dioxide on every out breath.
This causes a chemical imbalance affecting many of the body’s systems. The results can be extremely unpleasant and frightening, causing us to become anxious. This can further upset our breathing pattern and a vicious circle develops.
You may be well aware of a particular event or experience that triggers your over-breathing, although this is not always the case. Possible triggers include bereavement, anxieties at work or home, altered breathing due to chest disease, (e.g. asthma) or following surgery.
(My trigger was anxiety)
How can I help myself?
Become aware of the way you breathe…
and how it may vary in certain situations. By learning to control the rate and depth of your breathing, i.e. retraining:
Learn to nose breathe.
Try to stop yawning and sighing.
Focus your breathing gently into your abdomen, avoiding excessive upper chest movement.
Become aware of your posture and learn to recognise areas of tension in your body.
This can be a good way of increasing your general feeling of well-being and self-confidence. If exercising is particularly difficult, discuss this with your physiotherapist.
(Exercise makes it worse right now but I think I’m going to try yoga.)
Variations in your blood sugar levels can contribute to your symptoms, so:
Avoid large meals, particularly late at night.
Take healthy snacks between meals”
(I’m working on this. I’m not always consistent with my eating.)
I read somewhere else (can’t remember where) that reflux is a symptom, and I’ve been struggling with that as well. Papaya enzymes are my friend! I tried them Monday night, and they worked almost right away.
More Natural Ways that I’m Working on my Anxiety
Meditation and Breathing Training
I have two great apps that have worked really well for me. I wrote about the meditation one before (Meditation Studio), but my friend shared a different one with me yesterday and it made a HUGE difference just using it a couple of times!
The app is called Breathing Zone. It’s really simple. It just has you breathe in and out in different amounts and times. It completely reset my breathing. Then I struggled again, then I started focusing on breathing through my nose only. I have also been meditating when I first go to bed.
I took a picture today of myself before I started my breathing re-training while resting this afternoon. I look kind of a mess (no makeup, hair everywhere, and zits), but I’m just thankful that I have these resources! They have helped so much!
I received these essential oils from a friend yesterday, and I was floored. She bought me 11 oils and some Stress Away bath bombs. I totally don’t feel deserving of this. Young Living EO’s are NOT cheap. I’m praying that they help me!!!
I no longer have a diffuser, so I ordered a pretty inexpensive one off Amazon. Hopefully it works okay. Diffusers from Young Living are at least $60 and this one was only $20! It looks promising. I will probably buy another one in a few weeks to have one in the living room and one on my desk in my bedroom. We’ll see.
I used to be anti-oils but I have decided that I am willing to try anything and my friend is helping me out SO much with this so I will try all of my options!
I take a lot of meds (Buspirone, Lexapro, small dose of Lithium, Lamtictal, small dose of Risperdol, Propranolol, and Gabapentin), but I’m actually hoping to reduce soon because my doctor and I feel that I’m on too much (which I think has been causing me more anxiety). I will always have to take meds, but less would be better.
I recently shared about all of the supplements that I take (Rescue Remedy as needed, Magnesium, Vitamin D3, Cod Liver Oil, Probiotics), but I have recently added 5HTP with Melatonin at bedtime and Vitamin B Complex.
I also ordered Epsom salt to use with essential oils in baths consistently. I bought a “Sport” one because it was $5 cheaper ($10 instead of $15 for 5lbs)! If I find that I’m going through a lot, I will buy a 19lb bag because it’s so much cheaper. We’ll see.
When I was really struggling a few days ago my counselor suggested I try acupuncture. I have never been open to that before in the past, but I was desperate and I made an appointment at a place called Kerrville Community Acupuncture.
I ended up canceling the appointment when I noticed that they breathing re-training was WORKING. It is always a fall back, though, if my anxiety gets bad again or if it just doesn’t settle down long-term. The acupuncture does a lot of good things so it would never be bad to do. I just don’t want to spend the money now (although she is pretty inexpensive with a sliding scale!).
Bible Study, Journaling, Prayer, Worship
This is the most important one. I have been struggling so much spiritually and I talked with one of my best friends a few weeks ago about not totally trusting God because He allows such bad things to happen. In the midst of my suffering with the breathing issue (it’s TERRIBLE you guys) and having to put the boys back into school (again), plus thinking about the gruesome suicide of my brother and mine and my brother’s mental illness in general, I was just low. She was amazing and shared lots of scripture with me, but I just couldn’t hear it.
The past few days I have been reading from an app called the First 5, and the study is on suffering. It’s so perfect and exactly what I need to be reading right now. It has you read a chapter out of scripture (starting with Job, and I read out of my study Bible with commentary), then there is a devotional to follow and an open-ended question that it asks at the end where you can type your answer right into it. I am also using my Quieting Your Heart journal that I’ve shared before in the past.
Then I spent some time listening to worship music (which I haven’t been doing as much lately) and it was so perfect for my heart. I could “hear” God speaking to me again for the first time in a long time. I could feel His love. I felt hope. It’s been a while since I have felt hope.
The Holy Spirit spoke to me today, and He comforted me and was my counselor. I have needed that for a long time. Years. I am convinced that I need to trust Him to be that for me more often.
Speaking of… I decided to pull out a book that has been on my bookshelf for like 8 years. I read a couple of chapters when I got it but never finished it. I totally forgot what I read those 8 years ago. It’s called Forgotten God and it’s by Francis Chan. I started reading it again today and it spoke so clearly to me. I’m looking forward to actually reading it all the way through this time :-).
I’m keeping most things off of my plate right now.
My new focus is my relationship with Jesus, my family and friends, keeping my anxiety low, going to AA (and staying sober), homeschooling Karis, and “healthy” habits that I have been doing for a long time (including gratitude, meal planning, meal prep, self care, keeping the house mostly clean, and one that I have been working on for about 5 months but still have a long way to go… self love). That is all I can handle at the moment. And honestly it’s a lot! What keeps triggering my anxiety is trying to do too much (all of that PLUS a movement habit, still feeling the need to focus on weight loss, planning other Balance 365 habits, planning a backpacking trip that I’m not ready for, homeschooling all of the kids which is the biggest thing, etc), so I will NOT make that mistake again, for a while at least ;-). Now if I can keep my perfectionist brain away!