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Coronavirus anxiety: This Morning's experts urge people to Google the 4-7-8 breathing technique

What is the 4-7-8 breathing technique? We reveal all… 

coronavirus anxiety
Leanne Bayley
Director of Lifestyle & Commerce
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Emma Kenny, This Morning's resident Psychologist, and GP Dr Philippa Kaye, sat down with Eamonn Holmes and Rochelle Humes on Friday's This Morning to discuss coronavirus anxiety and to help ease any worries. An array of callers dialled in to discuss anxiety around coronavirus, from OCD issues to sleep deprivation. Emma suggested everyone needs to try breathing exercises. She told one caller: "I want you to go on YouTube and look up box breathing or 4-4-4 or 4-7-8 breathing, and I want you to listen to some of those because that is something that will just help you to calm down. Also, I'd really like you to ring your family and friends for support and having conversations to break up that [anxious] thought process."

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She also suggested going online and chatting to someone at Anxiety UK. She concluded: "Remember, with overthinking you have to stop that cognition and stop that thought process." 

rochelle eammon this morning© Photo: Rex

Eammon and Rochelle addressing the camera

Another caller explained that she's suffered from panic attacks because of coronavirus fears. GP Dr Philippa told her: "I would recommend you ring your doctor because there are medications that we can give for anxiety and panic attacks, just as there are psychological treatments and talking therapies and breathing exercises. Depending on your other health conditions, those medications can vary from a beta-blocker which turns off the physical symptoms of anxiety; palpitations, sweating, shaking, so your brain starts to think 'well my body doesn't seem to think I'm anxious so maybe I'm not anxious.' That could help. We also have angliotic medications that you can take daily and they can help with your mood, depression and they can also help with things like OCD. So definitely do ring your GP."

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philippa kaye this morning© Photo: Rex

Dr Philippa Kaye on This Morning

Emma added: "I promise you, I absolutely promise you, that if you really concentrate on it, try something like the 4-7-8, just google it, the 4-7-8 technique because I promise you that will help reduce those symptoms. Just try to do that."

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Phillipa agreed, but instructed the caller: "You need to practice that kind of breathing when everything is good so that it becomes really routine, so that when you're in the really high panic anxiety moment that you sort of slip into that routine and it becomes more natural. You need to practice when things are also calm."

emma kenny this morning© Photo: Rex

Psychologist Emma Kenny on This Morning

The 4-7-8 method was devised by Dr Andrew Weil who recommends practising the 'relaxing breath' twice a day. On his website, it states: "The 4-7-8 Breathing Exercise is utterly simple, takes almost no time, requires no equipment and can be done anywhere. Although you can do the exercise in any position, sit with your back straight while learning the exercise. Place the tip of your tongue against the ridge of tissue just behind your upper front teeth, and keep it there through the entire exercise. You will be exhaling through your mouth around your tongue; try pursing your lips slightly if this seems awkward."

How to do the 4-7-8 breathing technique

  1. Exhale completely through your mouth, making a whoosh sound.
  2. Close your mouth and inhale quietly through your nose to a mental count of four.
  3. Hold your breath for a count of seven.
  4. Exhale completely through your mouth, making a whoosh sound to a count of eight. This is one breath.
  5. Now inhale again and repeat the cycle three more times for a total of four breaths.Note that you always inhale quietly through your nose and exhale audibly through your mouth. The tip of your tongue stays in position the whole time. Exhalation takes twice as long as inhalation. The absolute time you spend on each phase is not important; the ratio of 4:7:8 is important. If you have trouble holding your breath, speed the exercise up but keep to the ratio of 4:7:8 for the three phases. With practice, you can slow it all down and get used to inhaling and exhaling more and more deeply.

To find out more, and watch a video of how to do the 4-7-8 breathing technique, visit

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