Breathwork for Trauma: Overcoming Pre- and Post-Natural Disaster Anxiety

anxious woman sits outside hugging knees

Experiencing or expecting a natural disaster can have a profound impact on your health, and it’s important to address the effects of these events. Whether it’s fear of experiencing another situation or the aftermath of witnessing something scary, trauma can manifest itself in many ways. Anxiety, stress, and even post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) can flare before, during, and after natural disasters, but it’s important to know there’s hope in dealing with your feelings.

During these times, resorting to breathwork can be a powerful tool to help you gain a sense of calmness, control, and resilience. In this article, we’ll explore how breathwork releases trauma, various breathwork techniques, and how it can be used to overcome natural disaster anxiety. Remember, if you’re struggling with anxiety, you will eventually be okay.

How Does Breathwork Release Trauma?

Breathwork is a form of active meditation. It relies on conscious and controlled breathing to realign your physical and mental state, strengthening your mind-body connection. Because of the way that breathwork interacts with your body, it can be helpful in alleviating stress and healing trauma for a number of reasons.

Here are some ways breathwork facilitates trauma release:

1. Bypassing the Conscious Mind

Sometimes, traumatic experiences get suppressed in your subconscious mind, which can make it difficult to address them through traditional therapy or even realize what’s happening. Our body stores lots of feelings and emotions without us realizing it. When we’re busy or in a heightened state of adrenaline (like while preparing for a natural disaster), it can be difficult to realize the underlying causes of our stress. Breathwork allows you to tap into your subconscious to access and release buried trauma.

2. Activating the Vagus Nerve

Your nervous system is composed of your spinal cord, brain, and nerves, which send messages to one another and are responsible for feelings of stress and anxiety (as well as good feelings). More specifically, your sympathetic nervous system is responsible for your fight-or-flight response, while your parasympathetic nervous system is focused on resting responses.

After you experience a stressful situation, your vagus nerve is what allows you to calm down. So, by activating your vagus nerve, you can take a proactive approach to easing your mind. Deep, rhythmic breathing can stimulate this nerve, promoting relaxation. 

3. Lowering Blood Pressure

Finally, your blood pressure tends to rise when you’re experiencing anxiety or a stressful situation. When you use breathwork techniques, you take slower and deeper breaths, which helps to regulate and lower your blood pressure.

woman sits outdoors and performs breathwork for trauma

Breathwork Techniques for Healing Trauma

Now, let’s review some of the breathing exercises for PTSD and regulating your feelings of natural disaster stress and anxiety. There’s no “right” way to do breathing techniques; just practice what feels good for you. It may even take testing out a few types of breathwork until you find one that fits.

1. Release Breathwork

Release breathwork involves letting go of tension and negative emotions by exhaling with a strong, audible sigh. This technique can be particularly beneficial in releasing pent-up emotions related to trauma. Sit or lay down in a comfortable position. Take a deep inhale through your nose and a deep exhale out of your mouth, paying attention to how your stomach, mind, and lungs feel as you do so. Repeat for three to five minutes, or keep going! This may sound simple, but the key is deep, intentional breathing and a focus on your body, not letting your mind wander.

2. Holotropic Breathwork

This breathwork technique was developed by Stanislav and Christina Grof. The goal of this method is to induce an altered state of consciousness that allows for self-reflection, emotional healing, and growth. It is normally done in a safe and supportive environment, as it requires lying down, listening to evocative music, and syncing your breath with the space around you.

3. 4-7-8 Breathing

4-7-8 breathing is a great way to slow down your nervous system and strengthen your mind-body connection. Sit or lay with your mouth closed, and inhale through your nose for four seconds. Hold this breath for seven seconds before exhaling through your mouth for eight seconds. Take a pause, and repeat this for at least five full breath cycles. When you’re experiencing natural disaster anxiety, 4-7-8 breathing is a great way to calm and ground yourself.

statue of two people hugging

Overcoming Natural Disaster Anxiety with Breathwork

You may feel nervous or anxious around the time of a natural disaster due to the lack of control you have over the situation. It’s why preparing can be an important step in easing your mind and providing comfort, which you can do with the Grab + Go Box. The Grab + Go Box is filled with information on overcoming your fears of natural disasters.

By using these breathwork techniques, you provide yourself with a sense of control and a proactive way to handle these feelings of stress. Conscious breathing can be a transformative tool in reclaiming your life, finding solace, resilience, and healing trauma amidst life's most challenging circumstances.

If you feel that natural disaster anxiety is interfering with your life, you should also consider talking with a trusted loved one or even seeking professional guidance. You’ve got this. Try to focus your energy on the things that you do have control over, like your response and emotions.