3 Breathing Techniques To Help You With Scanxiety

Louisa Rasmussen, stage 4 breast cancer patient and founder of www.breathebalancebe.com, shares some breathing basics to help you manage your mind through scanxiety.


 “The mind is the king of the senses, but the breath is the king of the mind” John Kabat-Zinn. 

 And breathe…

As I draft this blog, I am days away from CT scan number 535. I’ve not had that many really; I’ve lost count, but let’s say that I’ve had a lot in the last 6.5 years. Scanxiety may make us hold our breath a lot – unconsciously. The scan itself asks us to hold our breath #IYKYK. We’re not designed to hold our breath frequently, yet we are likely holding it without knowing. The brain is primarily looking for messages from the respiratory system, so when we’re not breathing, it may freak out a little – hello, scanxiety.

 We can live without food and water for much much longer than we can without our breath. We take around 22,000 breaths a day, but we spend more time and energy thinking about what to eat and ensuring that we stay hydrated (both very important, of course). How much time do we spend on our breathing? It is the number one source of energy and is vital for life.


So tip #1 is simple – don’t forget to breathe. 


“A healthy mind has an easy breath” – Unknown.

 How we breathe matters. Our breath and emotions are bi-directional. How we breathe is linked to how we feel. If we are mouth breathing, shallow breathing, breathing quickly, these are stressful breathing habits on the body and mind. 

Check-in on your breathing now. Soften your shoulders. Take a s l o w nasal breath in to the back of the body and release a bit of tension as you breathe out. Our day to day basic breathing should be horizontal (think, expanding the lower ribs area) rather than vertical (upper chest breathing). We want to use our diaphragm as efficiently as possible and breathe from the lower ribs, to which the most important breathing muscle is attached, and expand our ribcage out to the sides while we breathe using the nose and breathe slowly. This will allow for better oxygenation of the body and mind. 


Breathing technique #2: Take functional, healthy breaths as often as you can


  • Breath in and out of the nose of the nose if you can
  • Tongue rests at the roof of the mouth (this helps to stimulate the parasympathetic nervous system) 
  • Cheeks, jaw and muscles in the neck are relaxed 
  • Shoulders are soft 
  • Lower ribs expand out to the sides as you breathe in slowly 
  • Allow the body to release tension as you breathe out and let go 
  • Repeat frequently, pre and post-scan day 



Scanxiety SOS breath 


After a period of waiting for results or holding our breath, our anxiety levels may increase and we may experience frequent feelings of panic.

In these circumstances, the body and brain are looking for feelings of safety and security. We are probably seeking those feelings frequently throughout life, especially after a life-changing event like a cancer diagnosis. 

Take a moment to engage with your senses. Feel what you can feel around you, beneath your feet. Name a few things that you can see. What can you hear? Can you smell or taste anything? Can you feel and hear the sound of your breathing? The cooler air as you breathe in and the warmer air as you breathe out. 


#3 breathing technique for anxiety/panic 

 Take a moment to ground yourself using your senses. 

Take a normal breath in and a normal breath out, pinch and hold your nose gently at the end of the exhale, count to 3 (3 seconds), release your nose and breathe normally. Repeat that 4 times. 

This technique can help to adjust the imbalance caused by anxious breaths and feelings of panic. It is helpful to practice this when we need a calm moment.



The scan is our friend. It’s a sort of friendly robot checking in on us. 

 Well done for practising some basic breathing exercises.



One day at a time. One scan at a time. One breath at a time.

 And exhale…


Get Louisa’s Good Breath Guide free at www.breathebalancebe.com



If you have any questions or would like a free chat with Louisa, 

please email her breathebalancebe@outlook.com

Louisa Rasmussen

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