Recently, in looking for something specific for a friend, I ran across the idea of Breath Prayers. It is a great practice that I would like to share with you today!
When you are feeling anxious or panicky, the sympathetic nervous system kicks in, increasing your heart rate and triggering rapid, shallow breathing that can lead to hyperventilating. Breathing is in part dictated by your thoughts. What you think affects how you breathe. Focusing on negative thoughts and worries can increase the feelings of anxiety and panic, making it more difficult to control your breathing. "Cast all your anxieties on Him, because He cares for you." 1 Peter 5:7
Breath prayers focus on both your breathing and your thinking at the same time.
Deep breathing exercises help engage the parasympathetic nervous system, slowing your heart rate and breathing, and helping you to calm down. And by turning your thoughts away from the negative worries and intentionally toward Truth, you can begin to calm your mind, shift your focus and "let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think." (Romans 12:2) Here is how to do "breath prayers":
Inhale & exhale very slowly as you recite the words of each prayer to yourself.
Breathe in deeply & slowly through your nose & feel your lungs fill completely.
Try to focus on filling your lower lungs (your diaphragm) so that your stomach expands while your upper chest remains still.
Then slowly breathe out. The exhale should be the longest.
Empty your lungs slowly & fully.
Meditate on the words of the prayer as you breathe.
Once you have the words memorized, you can close your eyes as you breathe.
Repeat at least 10 times. (Optional: hold your breath for a count of 3 between the inhale and exhale. Or try this breathing pattern: Inhale for a count of 4, Hold for 4, Exhale for 8.)
You can practice breath prayers at any time. Try practicing them throughout the day when you are not in a state of stress or panic, so your body can get used to the breathing pattern. This will help the deep breathing to be more automatic when anxiety rises and you use the breath prayers to help you calm down and mitigate feelings of stress or panic.
Here are a few examples of some of my favorites:
God is my refuge (breathe in) - God is my strength (breathe out) - Psalm 46:1
This is the day that the Lord has made (breathe in) - let us rejoice and be glad in it (breathe out) - Psalm 118:24
When I am weak (breathe in) - then You are strong (breathe out) - 2 Cor. 12:10
If God is for us (breathe in) - who can be against us (breathe out) - Romans 8:31
Be strong (breathe in) - and courageous (breathe out) - Joshua 1:9