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Breathwork for Anxiety vs Depression – Which Breath Pattern Is Best For You?

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Breathwork works for everybody and every system. 

However, not all breath patterns are created equal. And the breathwork pattern that will work best for YOU and YOUR system completely depends on your unique survival strategies and coping mechanisms. 

For example, a person whose system is anxious needs to practice a breath pattern technique completely different from the technique that a depressed system would use. 

In this article, I’ll be breaking down the difference between an anxious system and depressed system so you can properly identify which one you have. And I’ll also be guiding you through the ideal breathwork pattern to use for each type of system. 

All right, so let's start off by talking about survival strategies… 

What is a survival strategy? 

Well, when we get triggered – or when something in our environment triggers us – we go into a survival strategy. And all of us have different strategies that we use to stay safe. But the main thing that we are trying to do is keep safe and maintain our safety

So, for instance, some people get triggered and they go into an aggressive pattern. Which means they might get really angry or really frustrated – and start screaming or yelling. 

They do this, most likely because when they were young that's how they learned that they would be safe. So they learned that they could shift someone's behavior through aggression. And they're like, “oh, that works. OK, so that's my survival strategy.” 

And some people might go into a victim mentality, where they play the victim to get their needs met, and that's their survival strategy. 

Now, of course there are way more survival strategies than the two I’m going on today. Let me know if you’d be interested in hearing about the other survival strategies, and I’d be happy to write another blog post about all of the survival strategies.

The two strategies that I'm talking about today are anxious and depressed

So emotionality has a spectrum… and the anxious system and depressed system are the two extremes of that spectrum. 

So when the external world triggers someone with an anxious system, this is what it might look like… The energy of the system activates and everything immediately goes up to the head. You know, it’s that of “Oh my God, oh my God, oh my God!

Whereas the depressed system tends to go into a collapse, socially isolating themselves and disconnecting. 

Now, when it comes to Breathwork – there’s a breath pattern that works better for the anxious system and there's a breath pattern that works better for the depressed system. 

And sometimes, I’ll have someone come up to me and say: hey, Sam, I'm doing Breathwork and is actually making me anxious!

Well, if your system runs hot, and when you get triggered you go to anxiety, that would make sense. 

Now, it's not to say that those breath patterns should never be used, but we want to slowly start with a softer pattern and get the body used to that amount of energy, then go to a more intense pattern. 

So let me break this down. 

If you run hot, and your system runs anxious, and that's where you go when you're in a survival strategy… then it's better to start with one of the more relaxing patterns – like the Halo Active breath. Which is nice and slow. Even just two deep breaths of the Halo Active breath, you can already start to feel a little bit of energy in you body.

You can immediately start to feel the shift in energy and the regulation of the nervous system, so that's a really great place to start before trying to go into a triactive breath, or one of the more active breath patterns. 

The Triactive breath is in the category of activating, so for those of you who are anxious, starting with a slower, more relaxing one, and then working your way up to the triactive breath, is a really beautiful pathway for you

So now we're going to talk about the other side of the spectrum, which is more of the depressed system. If you have more of a depressed system then you’re triggered, you tend to go into a collapse and your energy actually goes down.

So with that one, the Triactive breath is actually really powerful.

Because with the depressed system, we want to bring more energy into the body. We want to bring the energy up, particularly bringing it into the heart. We want to allow the body to get out of that lethargic – ugh feeling – and bring it up a little bit more. 

So the Triactive breath is actually a really great one for someone with a depressed system. And someone with a depressed system, using top holds (holding the breath at the top of an inhale), are freaking awesome. 

So after you do the triactive breath, taking a deep breath in through the nose, holding at the top. And what that does is it shoots the energy up and out of the body. So it takes us from that state of the collapse, feeling depressed and down and the energy into the ground. And it allows the energy to activate and shoot up through the heart, up and out through the top of the head. 

Now, for people who have an anxious system, on the other side of the spectrum, using shallow holds are really powerful as well. So doing your breath pattern and then letting all of the breath out. And holding at the bottom of the breath pattern. 

So that's the difference between an anxious state and a depressed state. And again, it doesn't matter where you are on the spectrum, it's all about understanding your body and understanding what works best, what breath pattern works best. 

If you're doing Breathwork and you're like: oh, I feel anxious… you might be adding too much energy into your body too quickly and you don't yet have the ground to stabilize it. So you begin to feel untethered, a little anxious. The mind starts to go really busy. 

And that is what happened to me multiple times before I knew these maps and before I knew how to really work the energy of my body. 

So let me know how that feels. Let me know if that makes sense. And again, Breathwork is for everybody. We just need to be mindful of the path that we take. It's not a one size fits all. That's not our philosophy at Pause Breathwork. We are very intentional about creating audios and breath patterns for all different types of people, all different types of systems, all different types of survival strategies. 

Here’s a couple of breathwork audios for you to explore, based on your survival strategy system.

For a more anxious system, check out this one – 

And for a more depressed system, check out this one –

Watch this YouTube video:

I hope you found this article super helpful. Everything that I’m teaching you has truly changed my life for the better. And my intention is for it to change yours as well. So don't forget that you are your own drug. You are the medicine to your nervous system that you so desire and deserve. Have a beautiful week. Bye for now.

All love,


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