Managing Physical Symptoms of Anxiety

There are many physical symptoms of anxiety, some of which may feel extremely alarming, such as tightness in the chest and restricted breathing (if you are not sure these symptoms are directly related to anxiety please visit your doctor to rule out any other causes or medical conditions).

One of the keys to managing anxiety is to understand these symptoms are not life threatening and to begin to view them more as an annoying inconvenience  rather than something to be concerned about. One way of doing this is to experience these sensations while in a safe environment in order to become familiar with them and how to manage them calmly. If you have been suffering panic attacks or are particularly frightened by these symptoms it is not recommended that you try these exercise alone, please ensure you are in an environment that you feel safe in and with a trusted and supportive person.

Hyperventilation is the main cause of majority of anxiety symptoms, so the following exercises aim to replicate a similar state in order for you to calmly observe the bodily sensations that accompany it and become better able to tolerate them calmly. You are likely to experience a fat heart rate, dizziness, light-headedness, numbness, blurred vision and/or shortness of breath.


  • Running in place for 1 minute
  • Spinning in a chair for 1 minute
  • Hyperventilate by breathing in and out as fast as you can through your mouth for one minute
  • Breath through a straw for a minute while pinching your nose in order to block your nostrils

Once you have begun to experience the sensations, practice using deep, controlled breathing to manage them. Slowly, breath in for the count of 4, hold for the count of 4, breath out for the count of 4, hold for the count of 4.


This style of breathing combats the typical shallow breathing experienced during period of intense anxiety or panic. Practice this breathing at least three times a week, and use it when you feel the onset of anxiety symptoms in future.