Anxiety is the most common mental disorder in the United States, affecting nearly 18 percent of the population, according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America. For some, anxiety attacks are debilitating, but for most, anxiety comes on unexpectedly, throwing us for a loop temporarily.
Fortunately, there is a new tool that has popped up again on Reddit that may help. It's a simple GIF and a breathing exercise all rolled into one, and anxiety sufferers say it works like a charm to quiet stress and help them get on with their day.
The GIF starts out as a simple line that blooms into triangle, and then a square, and then a series of shapes before cresting as an octagon and then returning in the same pattern to its original line. The accompanying caption reads, "If you have anxiety, take deep breaths in sync with this."
I gave it a try myself the last time I was feeling stressed out, and I could feel the tension melting away in waves.
So how does it work?
Dr. Christina Hibbert, a clinical psychologist, mother of six, and author of the newly published "8 Keys to Mental Health Through Exercise," posted about this GIF on Twitter, so I reached out to her for some information on why this simple exercise is helping so many people deal with anxiety. Here's what she had to say:
"[I]t works because it forces us to slow down our breath. When it comes to anxiety, one major problem is the tendency to breathe in shorter, shallow breaths, versus deep breathing. Deep breathing, which this image promotes, requires us to slow down, extend our inhale and exhale, and bring more oxygen to our brain and body. This can help calm and relax us ... When we slow down, breathe deeply, and really focus on the breath, like this image helps us to do, we find we are refreshed and ready to go back to whatever life is handing us with a renewed energy and peace. Finally, when we're anxious, we are usually thinking about anything but the present moment. Breathing with this image forces us to focus on what's happening right now — the breath — and that takes us out of our head and our worries."
Out of our head and out of our worries — and on with the rest of our days.
Sounds good to me.