5 breathing techniques for when you’re nervous and need a moment to center yourself

Maybe you’re about to walk into a big presentation at work, take an important exam at school, or meet a blind date. Whatever it is, those nervous butterflies in your stomach can become a real issue and can cause you to lose your mind a little, so here are some breathing techniques that will help you center yourself to allow you to stay calm, even when you are incredibly anxious.

The power of breathing

First of all, however, it is important to look at how breath can influence the way you are feeling. Nerves come from a deep-rooted feeling that there is some sort of danger or discomfort ahead, which causes adrenaline to course through your bloodstream. Breathing mindfully in these moments is your way of reassuring your body that everything is okay and that you are in control. Breathing is an integral part of yoga practice and is known as pranayama, which is known to reduce stress in your everyday life. If, however, you are not an aspiring yogi and want to find a breathing exercise that doesn’t take a whole lot of practice, these are for you.

5 breathing techniques for when you’re nervous and need a moment to center yourself

Deep belly breath

When we are anxious, we tend to breathe in a shallow way, into our chest, which makes us feel as though we are not breathing enough. When you are feeling nervous, focus on breathing into your stomach, enough to make it expand and contract. Although it is simple enough, it actually has the power to slow down your racing heart and bring your blood pressure to a more stable level. Simple breathe and out, into your stomach three times, making sure that the out breath is long and drawn-out.

Equal breathing

This is one of the easiest and most subtle techniques for if you are feeling a little nervous. Breathe as if you are doing deep belly breaths but make sure that you breathe in for a count of four, hold for four, and then exhale for the same count of four. This can help to reduce your stress, increase your focus and calm your nervous system – and nobody need ever know what you’re doing.


The inhale-hold-exhale technique, or the 4-7-8, is one that is often taught in therapy sessions for those who suffer from panic disorders. Although it does take a little practice, it is incredibly effective. You want to inhale for a count of four and hold your breath for seven seconds, before exhaling slowly for eight counts. Really focus on your breathing and the numbers, and once you have repeated this cycle a few times, you will feel a lot more centered.

CO2 Breathing

If you feel as though you are the verge of a panic attack or hyperventilation, there is a specific technique that will help you deal with this. Often when we breathe in this way, our carbon dioxide levels are low and needs to be replenished, which you can do, simply by cupping your hands over your mouth and making your breaths slow and deliberate. After doing this for around one minute, you should start to feel better.

5 breathing techniques for when you’re nervous and need a moment to center yourself

Alternate nostril breathing

This is one of the most simple yoga pranayamas that you can pick up easily and use when you are in a private space. You are basically holding closed your right nostril with your right thumb while you inhale through your left nostril. Then swap your fingers so that your ring finger is holding your left nostril closed and exhale out of your right nostril.

So next time you are stressed or nervous, just breathe – with purpose!