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Ease Anxiety with a Simple Breathing Exercise

PEACE with Anxiety Podcast Episode 22
Ep 22: 5-minute Breathing Exercise to Ease Anxiety

Do you want to know how you can quickly ease your anxiety, wherever you are? Join me as I share with you my favourite simple yet powerful 5-minute breathing exercise. Discover why breathing into your belly, not your chest, can swiftly shift you from stress to calm. Dive into this episode to learn how a few minutes of focused breathing can transform your day and cultivate lasting calm.

Listen as I talk about:

  • Introduction to the 5-Minute Anxiety-Reducing Breathing Exercise

  • Understanding the Science: Why Belly Breathing Works Better

  • Step-by-Step Guide: 4-2-6 Breathing Exercise

  • Discover how practising this exercise proactively can enhance emotional resilience and reduce anxiety levels over time.

  • Explore practical applications of this breathing technique in your daily routine to achieve lasting calm and emotional well-being.

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Does a breathing exercise reduce anxiety?

The 4-2-6 is a breathing exercise that has been studied and shown to help regulate emotions. So, when we're anxious, we often try to rationalize our feelings. However, when we are in that anxious state, logic alone is not going to be enough. So this scientifically proven exercise is meant to get you out of the fight-or-flight state and bring you back to your body and to the present moment. It’s so much more than just deep breathing. It helps to give back control to you, of your body, your heart rate, and your blood pressure. 

Introduction to the Breathing Exercise

There are 3 parts in this exercise that we are going to focus on:

Part 1: All you need to do is breathe in through the nose and out through the mouth.

But here's the key: when you breathe in, you’re not breathing into your chest. You’re breathing into the belly. So. you can put one hand on your belly and the other one on your chest to make sure when you breathe in through the nose, you expanding the belly, and then you are going to bring your belly in as you're breathing out. 

Why is this important? We have sensors at the top of our lungs that trigger the fight-or-flight state. And if you're only chest breathing, your lungs are hitting those sensors and triggering fight or flight. On the other hand, we have sensors at the bottom of our lungs that trigger a sense of calm throughout the body, so we want to trigger those.

Part 2: You can next try inhaling for four counts, holding for two and exhaling for six. So, inhale through the nose for four counts, expanding your belly, holding for two seconds, and exhale for six counts out of the mouth, bringing your belly in.

Part 3: The last thing you can add here if you want to take it to the next level is to focus on your body’s sensations. So, on the inhale, focus on the sensations of breathing in your body, and then on the exhale, blow out all that built-up tension and stress.

Step-by-Step Guide: 4-2-6 Breathing Exercise

  1. Sit or lie down in a comfortable position, but make sure your back is straight to allow for full lung expansion.

  2. Place one hand on your belly and the other on your chest. Which will help you monitor your breathing and ensure you're breathing into your belly.

  3. Close your eyes if you feel comfortable, and take a slow, deep breath in through your nose for a count of four. As you do this, focus on the sensations of expanding your belly. Your chest should remain relatively still.

  4. Hold your breath for just 2 seconds at the top of your inhale.

  5. Slowly exhale through your mouth for a count of six. As you exhale, gently contract your belly, pushing the air out, and releasing all the tension and stress. Your exhale should be slow and controlled, like you're blowing out through a straw.

  6. Finally, continue this cycle of breathing. Inhale for four counts, hold for two and exhale for six.

Breathing Exercise to ease anxiety

Benefits of Proactively Practicing Breathing Exercises

Now the key here is to proactively use this exercise even when you don’t feel anxious. Try to do this exercise for at least five minutes twice a day for 7 days – in the morning and the evening, or whenever it fits your schedule.

And why practice this proactively? Because you're training your body on what to do when you do feel anxious. So, think about it: how can you make a skill to become automatic? You practice it over and over and over and over again. And it eventually becomes like driving, where you sometimes, don’t even remember the journey because it’s just so automatic. We want to achieve the same thing with breathwork, so building a skill that our body knows all too well, how to do it on autopilot during stressful situations.

Now, let’s talk about those seven days. Well, seven days won’t solve all your problems, but it’s a start. During this week, pay attention to how you feel before and after each breathing session. Maybe keep a journal to note any changes in your mood, stress levels, or anxiety, and see what difference you notice after seven days. Because tracking your progress can provide you with insights and will help you to stay motivated.

Practical Application of the Breathing Exercise to Achieve Lasting Calm

When negative emotions arise, use this breathwork technique. For example, if you find yourself suppressing emotions by eating, drinking, or scrolling on social media, use those moments as cues to do breathwork instead. So notice when you’re reaching for that snack or your phone, and take a moment to breathe deeply. This can help break the cycle of numbing your emotions and instead allow you to process them in a healthy way.

For instance, if you feel the urge to eat when you're not hungry, pause and take a few deep breaths instead. Focus on the sensations in your body and try to identify what you're feeling emotionally. Are you stressed, bored, or upset? By using breathwork in these moments, you can start to address the root cause of your feelings rather than masking them with temporary solutions.

Similarly, if you find yourself mindlessly scrolling through social media, put your phone down and take a few minutes to breathe. This can help you become more present and aware of your emotions, and also reduce the need to escape into your phone.

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So, if you want to learn more breathing exercises or other stress management techniques I would invite you to register for my FREE Peace with Anxiety workshop where I share with you my exact method to overcome anxiety. It is a 90-minute info session where I go step by step through what’s included in my peace with anxiety method that has helped me personally and also helped my clients to find calm, feel present and confident in their lives.

If you want to learn my exact method to overcome anxiety, click the link below ⬇️

FREE Workshop!!!

Peace with Anxiety Workshop - Overcome Anxiety Naturally

Do you want to:

  • Feel in control of your thoughts and feelings,

  • Learn why you feel the way you do,

  • Change your anxious thoughts naturally,

  • Learn to say no without feeling guilty,

  • Calm your racing mind that doesn’t let you go to sleep,

  • Feel calm, confident and present?

In this workshop, you will learn:

  1. The mindset of the high-achiever

  2. How I used the peace with anxiety method to manage my own mental health struggles and what you can do as well

  3. The ultimate method to effectively ease anxiety and transform into a calm, confident, and in control woman.


Important Links


Need more support to ease anxiety with breathing exercises?

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  • If you are an Australian resident, I provide online counselling for Anxiety, Stress, Perfectionism, People-pleasing, Self-esteem, and Self-image. Explore your thoughts, understand your feelings, and talk about your struggles in a safe, non-judgmental space, and receive support and guidance to navigate life’s challenges so that you can live your most fulfilling life with peace and confidence. Book your first session by clicking the link below.

All content here is for informational purposes only. This content does not replace the professional judgment of your own mental health provider. Please consult a licensed mental health professional for all individual questions and issues.

About the Author - Irene Evangelou


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