Why is it when I breathe in really deep, my anxiety gets worse and my heart starts racing?
Q: Why is it when I breathe in really deep, my anxiety gets worse and my heart starts racing?
A: Breathing is special in that it involves both the somatic nervous system and the autonomic nervous system (ANS). In other words, you can voluntarily control breathing, or if you choose not to do so, the body will take over automatically. Both systems are therefore connected. The ANS is self-regulating and usually not controlled by the somatic nervous system. For example, you cannot voluntarily decide to make your heart rate beat faster or slower. This is normally regulated by ANS and is beyond the somatic nervous system control. The ANS is broadly divided into the sympathetic nervous system (SNS), which is responsible for adrenaline release and the flight or flight response, and the parasympathetic nervous system (PNS), which is responsible for rest and relaxation of the body’s internal function. The key in adrenal breathing is activation of the PNS without activation of SNS. Overzealous deep breathing will activate the SNS at the tail end of each breath and is therefore counterproductive to adrenal recovery