The Only Breathing Exercise That Helps Calm Me Down, Stop Panic and Control Stress

Kaki Okumura
4 min readAug 29, 2019

I was gasping for air. My body was shaking. I want nothing more than to calm down right now.

I get like this for a lot of things: When my longtime companion, my bird, suddenly died from a disease. College admission results coming out. A really bad test grade. Field hockey try-outs. A big presentation in front of a crowd. Fights with my parents.

I knew I got flustered easily, so I wanted to develop tools to handle it better. A self-improvement enthusiast, pulling out my laptop I looked up breathing exercises on Google, downloaded meditation apps, and bought self-help books to become the calm and collected person I wanted to be in times of stress.

At the suggestion of online results, I would put in headphones, sit very still, and try to let calming music and sounds of nature clear my mind. Breathe in, breathe out. Breathe in, breathe out. I focused on the rhythm and tried to prevent my mind from wandering. But it wouldn’t quite work, so I would instead use a guided meditation app, and listen intently to the soothing voice giving instructions. Breathe in, breathe out. Breathe in, breathe out.

While these strategies aren’t completely ineffective, the solution would last about a whole 2 minutes before crumbling apart again. I would remember a sad thought. I would suddenly feel a deep fear. My breathing would quicken again, and pressure would build up behind my eyes, creeping from the bridge of my nose to my forehead. The tears I were holding back would fall and I would become very unsteady. How do I calm down?

A Better Strategy

I decided that there had to be a better strategy out there.

The breathing exercise apps didn’t work for me, but maybe it was onto something. A mental reaction from a physical one, I knew that physically steadying my breathing would help me feel emotionally calmer. But with the adrenaline running through my veins, instead of trying to calmly extinguish my anxiety response, I decided to go all-in and do the exact opposite by embracing the high intensity energy I was experiencing. I grabbed my headphones and went for a run instead.

Kaki Okumura

Born in Dallas, raised in New York and Tokyo. I care about helping others learn to live a better, healthier life. My site: 🌱