How to Relieve Anxiety (and Much More) with Breathwork

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Have you heard of breathwork? Claire gives you some tips on how to get into this interactive meditation technique that aims to center you, move emotions through your body, and relax the parasympathetic nervous system. Plus, she answers a question from a listener who is navigating the healthcare system and wants to know how to be a better patient.

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Claire Bidwell-Smith

Claire Bidwell-Smith  00:01

Are you breathing? Okay, good. But are you really breathing? I’m Claire Bidwell-Smith. And that’s what we’re talking about today on NEW DAY. Breathwork. Maybe you’ve heard of it, maybe you have. A client told me about some breath work she was doing a couple of years ago, swearing that it was life changing. And I tried it and loved it. But what the hell is it? Over the last few years, breathwork has become increasingly popular goop is all about it. And even Justin Bieber has raved about it on the Ellen show. But for good reason. It really has some benefits you should be aware of. Basically, breathwork is an interactive meditation technique that aims to center you move emotions through your body, and relax the parasympathetic nervous system. It’s great for anxiety, it’s great for grief. It’s basically great for any kind of heavy shit you may be going through. And it’s even great if you’re not going through much at all. breathwork teachers claim that you can do some serious emotional healing by practicing regular breath work. And they’ll tell you that it will help with staying focus through your days, getting into meditative states easier, and even sleeping better. The breathwork classes I’ve tried have actually been all on mine over Zoom, although I know they’re in person ones too. You can keep your video on or off. And basically, you just lie back in a comfortable position and follow the instructions of the teacher through a series of intense breathing exercises that lasts like up to an hour. I sobbed at the end of the first one I attended. And I was shocked by the insights that came up for me during and after the session. I also felt like it really helped me get into a compassionate space with myself. I liked that there on Zoom too, because it’s something you can fit into your day and just do at home. Basically, the whole thing is about the mind body connection. And by moving through certain breathing techniques, you can take your mind and body out of an agitated or anxious state. Turn off your stress response and activate your relaxation response, making it really healing for the nervous system. Again, this stuff is great for people who struggle with anxiety or trauma, but it’s good for anyone. You might feel a lot of different physical sensations while you’re in your breathwork session, including tingly hands or lightheadedness, but this is normal. And okay. You may also find that old emotions or memories resurface. But in most cases, this is really helpful and part of the healing. But definitely talk to a teacher if there’s anything you’re afraid of working through. You might experience the sense of losing time while you’re doing your breath work. And you also might feel really revitalized and energized afterwards from all the oxygen flowing to your organs. There are lots and lots of practitioners out there. So do a little research and talk to some people who’ve done it if you know anyone. I recommend the book breath, the new science of a lost art by James Nesta as a great place to get started in some research. And there are loads of other books out there about breath work as well. I also recommend the breath work teachers J. Bradley, Aaron […] and the community Black girls breathing up, put these in the show notes. Okay, ready, deep breath. Now, let it out. Keep breathing, it’s good for you.

Claire Bidwell-Smith  03:04

Sometimes I get questions that are super specific to the writer, and sometimes they can apply to everyone. That’s what we’ve got today. And whatever your question is, I want to hear from you. You can email me at Or fill out the form at Today’s question is from Alisa in Wilmington, Delaware, she writes, how do we become better patients? How do we advocate for ourselves as we navigate the healthcare system? What points of view or positions of power do people use as they work to uncover complex health issues with multiple doctors? Alisa, I’m so glad you asked this question. It is such an important one. We all need to be working on being better patients and learning how to self-advocate. Our healthcare system is seriously flawed. I hear about it all the time on the back end, after someone’s gone through an experience of caring for a loved one at the end of life. And then in retrospect, they have so many things they wish they had done differently, so many things that they didn’t understand, so many ways that they wish they had been able to talk to the doctors differently or communicate with the team. I hear about just so many different iterations of failures and flaws within the healthcare system. And I think the first thing that we have to do and understand is that doctors don’t have all the answers. There are a lot of gaps in our healthcare system. And many of them are mostly around communication between the healthcare professionals. They’re not communicating as much. They’re also not always being trained in everything, especially social emotional needs of patients. I think it’s really important to not be afraid to ask as many questions as you want and need to. Don’t be afraid to take notes or ask to record conversations with healthcare providers so that you can fully retain and explore everything they present to you. Don’t be afraid to explore multiple doctors, treatments, healthcare facilities. Remember that your healthcare professionals have been extensively trained but they might not always be up to date on newest treatments or medications or even philosophies. Do your own research, bring it in to them to discuss, talk to people in your community and get advice, opinions, references ideas. Remember that you’re the expert in this situation, you’re the only one who understands your body knows your symptoms, your pain, your anxiety. So don’t stick with a provider that you don’t like and don’t feel like you can trust someone who isn’t open to your questions and concerns. You don’t have to stay with that person. And don’t be afraid to confront bias if you’re feeling like that’s an issue. Whether it’s intentional or not, it’s really important for you to self-advocate in these situations. Remember that you have rights as a patient, you have rights to privacy, you have rights to obtain your full medical records, you have the right to informed consent, which means you have the right to fully understand everything that providers suggesting before you consent to treatment. So make notes, list out questions before you go to your appointments so that you’re really prepared. Push back when you have concerns and never leave an appointment without being clear about next steps. Be persistent. Follow up with treatment, questions, appointments, keep calling them. Ask someone in your family or friend circle to support you and going to your appointments or talking to doctors if you’re struggling to advocate for yourself. One last thing I’ll recommend is my guest from last year Dr. BJ Miller, he has a company called Mettle Health, where you can call and talk to a trained medical professional for any kind of advice around serious illness. It’s out of pocket, but they can help you navigate the medical system and choices and it’s invaluable mental I hope that helps Alyssa. And I’m just really glad you’re asking this question for all of us out here.

Claire Bidwell-Smith  06:54

Thinking about the health care system in America can definitely raise your anxiety. So, remember that breath work we talked about earlier? And then come back Friday for my conversation with Lena Dunham. We talked about so much, self-expression and creativity, what it means to be vulnerable in the public eye. How her relationship with womanhood, grief and loss intersects with her writing, and her reflections on the 10th anniversary of girls. So make sure you subscribe to NEW DAY on your favorite podcast app. So that episode is in your feed when you wake up on Friday.


NEW DAY is a Lemonada Media Original. The show was produced by Kryssy Pease and Erianna Jiles. Kat Yore is our engineer. Music is by Hannis Brown. New Day is produced in partnership with the well-being trust the Jed foundation and Education Development Center. Thanks for listening.

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