Relaxation for Shortness of Breath

Anxiety is an emotional state that increases muscle tension and sympathetic automatic nervous system activity. It can cause the body to react in a "fight or flight" response, which leads to increased blood pressure, heart rate and breathing, often leaving an individual feeling short of breath.

By relaxing, the parasympathetic nervous system is stimulated, which results in lowered blood pressure, heart rate and breathing -- the opposite effect of the "fight or flight" arousal response. The body doesn't need to work as hard, tension decreases and breathing becomes easier.

Relaxation can be learned by individuals and applied to help prevent and reduce feelings of shortness of breath. These videos focus on strategies including:

  • Learn relaxation techniques such as progressive muscle relaxation and guided imagery; and
  • The use of music to promote a feeling of relaxation.

Using Relaxation to Manage Shortness of Breath

1. Introduction to Relaxation

2. Guided Imagery

3. Progressive Muscle Relaxation

4. Music to Promote Relaxation

Additional Resources

Getting the Air You Need: A practical guide to coping with and managing shortness of breath

This resource has information to help you learn about:

  • what you can do to get the most out of your breathing
  • what to do when you are short of breath
  • ways to cope if you are feeling down or anxious

For more information, please read the PDF available from Hamilton Health Sciences Juravinski Cancer Centre.