3-5 Breathing Method

Learn a very simple method to help you sleep and manage panic attacks or flashbacks.

This a very simple method which you can use anywhere, any time to very quickly calm yourself and reduce anxious or panic-y feelings.

It is based on the physiology of fear and works by ensuring that you expel more oxygen than you breath in. If you are interested in how and why this works you can learn more about How Your Brain Works.

So it’s all about breathing out more than you breathe in.

  • Count to 3 as you breath in
  • pause
  • count to 5 as you breath out
  • pause
  • repeat
  • try to slow it down making the pauses and beats between numbers longer and longer

That sounds simple.  However when you are in an anxious state your body will instinctively be breathing in as much as possible.

If you find it hard to stick with focussing on the numbers this is very normal. Anxiety can lead to your thoughts flitting about.

To help you focus:

  • Looking at a rectangle while you do this can be a great way to focus the mind. You can use something like a window, bit of paper, roof in the distance. Any rectangle you can see. Pass your eye along the short side as you count in, and the long side as you count out.
  • Some people find it useful to use something they can touch, and run their finger slowly along each side as they do it.
  • Another great way to focus if you find your mind coming back to difficult thoughts is to press the pads of your fingers on your lap as you count.  Use one hand for the 1,2,3 on the in breath and use the other hand for the 1,2,3,4,5 on the out breath.
  • If your thoughts are hard to settle you can bring yourself back to the feeling of the pads of your fingers as they press against your skin or clothes with each count.

The counting in your head as you do it is important because it’s about re-engaging your thinking brain which will also help you reduce the panic response.

It is a good idea to practice this a bit when you feel calm and fine so that it comes easily to you when you need it.