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What should I do if I end up crying, and I find myself struggling to breathe?

282 Answers
Last Updated: 04/23/2022 at 11:21pm
1 Tip to Feel Better
United States
Moderated by

Alex DS Ellis, MA, LMFT

Marriage & Family Therapist

Feeling depressed or anxious can be so overwhelming. I want to help you feel better and be able to enjoy life. You are not alone and you deserve emotional support.

Top Rated Answers
February 26th, 2020 9:22pm
If you find yourself struggling to breathe, you may be having a panic attack. I know this is very scary, feeling like you've lost control of your breathing, or of your body. The most important thing to do is stay as calm as you can. Focus on each breath, paying attention to each inhale and each exhale. Go somewhere with a relaxing environment. For example, if you're in a room with a lot of noise and bright lights, it may be helpful to go to a quieter, darker room. Put on some calming music, even do some meditation if that helps. Focus on calming your mind, and your body will react accordingly. Afterwards, speak to someone you trust about it, and they might have some good advice to help you cope!
March 18th, 2020 10:48pm
When you're crying and struggle to breathe, it helps me a lot to make sure I breathe deeply when I inhale, even if I hiccup when I'm doing it, that way I'm getting the air in. Your brain needs the oxygen to be able to function properly and getting that oxygen in will help you move from your emotion mind over into your wise mind that can handle your emotions better! Just embracing the emotions and going "I'm sad and that's okay" or saying "I'm anxious and this is the best way I can deal with it right now" is a good way to get you into your wise mind!
March 25th, 2020 5:28pm
I always do this strategy. Breathe in through your nose count to five. Hold it for 10 seconds and breathe slowly through your mouth for 5 seconds. It will help you with your breathing and will help calm you down. Drinking water also helps crying as well. Also, do not be afraid to talk to a listener on here or even a therapist. We all want to help you in any way shape or form and we all hope that you feel better very soon because your emotions mean a lot. Hope this advice helps you in some way. Have a fantastic day
March 28th, 2020 10:15pm
Crying disrupts the regular pattern of our breathing. Crying is a natural response to sadness and grief. It is a way of releasing tension and the flowing of tears actually cleanses our body in a small way. Crying can be good but obviously when one gets so distressed that it interferes with breathing, things can get out of hand. When we cry, it irritates the muscles in our diaphragm and it sort of "gets confused". In addition, we tend to take short little breaths and not deep ones when we cry. This can keep us from getting a good deep breath full of the oxygen our body needs. So what to do? Well, first relax and know that this will pass. Now. If you can, sit in a quiet place, put a cool cloth over your forehead or face. Close your eyes and place both hands over your belly. Now breathe in slowly, counting to 5 and then, breathe out slowly counting to 5. Just concentrate on those slow breathes. You'll start feeling better in no time!
April 1st, 2020 3:31pm
There are several things one can try that can help you regulate breathing at such times. Though it depends on the person and what will help you so you can always explore your options and see what fits you best. What I found helps me is leaving the room/place where I am at, put my earphones on (whether something is playing or not depends on my mood) and just go for a walk. Sometimes we can't breathe is because of the intense emotions we are feeling and getting away from the place helps. Whether you continue walking or just go to a quiet place to sit, cry and just hug yourself, easing the pressure on your chest and shoulders helps a lot in breathing regularly. Othertimes, difficulty in breathing when crying may be due to a rising panic attack. What I have found that works for my friend is that when she has difficulty in breathing it helps to ask her questions that are completely irrelevant to the current situation such as "Name all the superheroes you know from Marvel", "Name all the female celebrities with great hair" etc. So if you are experiencing difficulty in breathing because you were crying it helps to distract your mind which would allow you to calm yourself and breathe evenly. Most importantly, remind yourself that you're safe. When we can't breathe when we cry is because our body's sympathetic nervous system has been activated and it is in "fight or flight" mode. You need to reassure yourself that you're okay. Pat your arms, legs, face and chest, stare at them and tell yourself "I'm okay". With every "I'm okay" take a deep breath in and slowly exhale. You are okay, your body is okay, you just need to convince your mind that you're okay for now and you can talk about what had caused you to cry with someone (like a friend or a listener here at 7cups) until your mind has calmed. I know in those moments it is really terrifying but you are so strong, love. You can do it. I believe in you. Take care of yourself and stay safe.
April 1st, 2020 11:25pm
the first thing to do is calm down. try to breathe deep breaths maybe 5 or 10 and that should immediately calm you down, i know that from my own experience. but other than that drink alot of water as when you exessivley cry you loose a lot of fluid so drinking water will make you feel better. i know how hard it can be and if your struggling please speak to people before it gets to that point for your own mental wellbeing. you're not alone there are people always there to listen. crying isn't a bad thing remember, you're going to be okay Holly x
April 12th, 2020 5:04pm
I find that focusing on your breathing always helps a lot! If you hyperventilate you will have that feeling like you're struggling to breath and your body will get numb. Breath slowly in and out, in and out. Try not to lose your focus, and soon it will be easier to breath! It will also ease your mind, as you won't be worried about anything else. If the feeling gets out of control and you feel the need t go to the hospital, as a last resourse do it. But remember that this feeling will go away with time.
April 12th, 2020 9:15pm
Take a seat. Then, place your hand on your chest. Take deep breaths, counting to three, then releasing after a 3 count. Feel the weight of your hand, the thump of your heart. Try to focus on slowing that beat just a little. Don't focus on anything else around you. You can do this. You are safe. You are strong. If your lungs are still too tight, raise your arms and put your shoulders back. Deep breaths in and out. Feel them rise and fall. Continue this until you have calmed down. Best of luck. You can make it through this.
April 16th, 2020 5:18pm
Take a lot of deep breaths, do some head space, guided meditation, or write it all down in a diary, to get out all of your emotions a complete train of through will help you identify what it is that is bothering you. Once you have done so let go of the things that you have no control over, and accept the things you can start to formulate strategies that will help you regain control over the things that you can do anything about. Also afterwards, practice self care ; maintain a healthy sleep cycle, look after yourself you have one body to house your mind.
April 22nd, 2020 10:25am
I know this feeling very well. Let yourself cry, but breathe. Seriously, force yourself to breathe. And if you have the chance to, have someone next to you. Sometimes when I can't breathe is because I feel like I'm drowning in my emotions, and it can get very scary. Having someone next to me can be very reassuring and distracts me a lot in those times. Otherwise, you can try and use something called the "fourfold breath". You inhale for 4 seconds, hold your breath for 4 seconds, exhale for 4 seconds, and hold your breath for 4 seconds. Try and repeat it until your breath calms down, focus on it, and let yourself realize that your emotions are simply that, emotions. If you find yourself breaking down crying again, try and eat something small, a candy, or even drink some water. It lets your body know that everything is fine, and really helps breaking the cycle of negative emotions and thoughts. I hope this helped!
April 24th, 2020 8:52am
In my experience there are a few things you can try, but if they work might depend on you as a person and on the situation. First of all you should try to go in a place you feel as safe as possible. This could be, for instance, and empty bathroom, or an empty corridor. It really depends on where you are. The second thing is you should try is to focus only on your breathing, and try to focus on breathing slowly. You should try to breathe in for a number of seconds, hold for the same time, breathe out and hold again, always for te same time. For me the umber 4 works best. Sometimes also drinking a sup of water can help, because when you drink you're body is forced to breathe slowly, but it's not always the best idea. Don't do this if you feel you're fainting. Another thing you can try are grounding thecniques. 'm sure you've heard of the one where you have to look around you and find 5 things you can see, 4 you can touch, 3 you can hear, 2 you can smell, and 1 you can taste. This is the most faous but there are many others that work even better in my experience. The one I use the most on me and others is to pick up something and describe it, but there are many others. Google it to find a complete list and try a few to see what works best for you. The last thing you can do is explain a close friend what to do when you're feeling this so when you need it you have someone who knows what to do, so you can avoid other people panicking as well and making things worse. That's all I have, I hope it helps.
April 29th, 2020 9:44pm
If you do end up struggling to breathe, one of the first thing you should do is to contact the closest family member or friend who is nearest to your physical location to help out. Whether or not it is to the point where you are having respiratory distress or if you are simply anxious, it is always safer to have another person nearby in case you need emergency help. It is unrealistic to say that one can stop crying so hard in the heat of the moment, so have someone there as a distraction to stop crying and for emergency support. Once you are able to stop crying, go ahead and find a trusted person to talk to for emotional debriefing.
May 6th, 2020 7:13pm
relax, and be open into the moment as much as possible. while placing your hands on your lower belly feel the rise and fall of each inhale and exhale breathe. then notice how the breathe is feeling in the body as you become an observer of the thoughts that are happening in and around you. crying is an emotional release and our spies need time to process these difficult emotions. being very kind and gentle with yourself during this time can help calm the body nervous system response and let you breathe a lot more freely into the space that Needs to be felt.
May 16th, 2020 11:56am
Finding yourself struggling for breath is one of the most frightening things to happen. It causes panic which can make breathing worse. The first thing to do is to consciously take control of your breathing. PAUSE. FOCUS. SLOWLY breathe in and out. This will break the fear and panic. After a few moments breathing will become easier and calmness return as the muscle tightness relaxes. Continue to focus on your breathing, take deep breaths slowly in and out. Stay calm. If you still struggle to breathe get help - ring the emergency services who can provide further help if required.
May 20th, 2020 8:19pm
It sounds like you might be experiencing a panic attack. If you find yourself in this situation, you likely were feeling really anxious, and this can often cause panic attacks(increase of heart rate, difficulty breathing, etc). There are a few techniques I suggest. 1. Deep breathing I know it sounds impossible, especially when you’re on the edge of hyperventilating. However, try to focus on your breathing. The feeling of air as you breathe in, the way the air feels traveling to your lungs. The feeling when you take a deep breath out, and the air traveling back out. If it helps, take a second to close your eyes and breathe in and out, making each breath longer and slower, until you feel you can breathe normally again. 2. Grounding exercise Another technique I would recommend is the grounding exercise. You can do this while deep breathing, or before/after if you prefer. It goes as follows: Look around you. Identify and name: 5 things you see 4 things you feel 3 things you hear 2 things you smell 1 thing you taste This is often used when you start feeling anxiety, which can lead to a panic attack. If you feel yourself starting to get really nervous over something, try this out. And if you have difficulty breathing, try deep breathing and the grounding exercise. These are only two techniques, but there are many more on the internet. Good luck
May 23rd, 2020 6:26am
Ground yourself first then dissect the reason and solution after. My favorite technique is to sit on the floor against a wall and OUT-LOUD say 5 things you can see, 4 things you can touch, 3 you can hear, 2 smell, 1 taste. May seem silly at first and even if it sounds stuttery at first keep trying. Other options are to use counting mechanism such as how many (object, color, shape...) you can see, counting by a specific number like 3s, or going 1a2b3c... Another method is to just overload your senses with music, food, exercise, pick your favorite. Then once calmer write out you feeling, talk to someone you trust and/or hop on here and talk to a compassionate listener. You are stronger then you think. YOU GOT THIS!
June 5th, 2020 6:44pm
If you feel yourself getting scared that you can't breathe, remember that this is something that happens to many people - it's called anxiety and it happened to me just last week! You are not dying, and you will get through. It's very important to slow down your breathing - if you can talk yourself down on your own, try counting to four as you breathe in, hold, and breathe out. Repeat until you start to feel calmer. If you need someone to help you, you can reach out to a listener on Seven Cups or use guided meditation. There are many that are designed to help calm you in moments of intense anxiety - Insight Timer is just one example of a free app I love with thousands of pre-recorded guided sessions. Breathe. It's ok to feel panicked - this will pass.
June 11th, 2020 7:13pm
The best thing to do during a crying episode when you're struggling to breath, is the "4 square" breathing exercise. The goal is to slow down and regulated your breathing as quickly and efficiently as possible. So, you count in increments of 4 seconds, 4 different times. If you picture a square, that essentially the symbol for this exercise. Breathe in for 4 seconds, hold the breath for 4 seconds, exhale for 4 seconds and hold for 4 seconds once again. Repeat this process until your breathing regulates. It helps if you either close your eyes OR focus on a specific object around you. There are also breathing visuals for this exercise online. They can be googled or youtubed.
June 12th, 2020 6:22pm
The best tips you can do in this situation, which I've discovered after many times being stuck in this situation is to breathe in for 5 and breathe out for 5. This helps to calm you down and help to control your breathing. Another thing I personally do is I call a friend and talk about what is happening and what causes it to happen over the phone. Typically, this helps me a lot but another thing you can do is watch something like your favourite film or tv show or even listen to music to distract from it and sometimes I just sleep it off.
June 17th, 2020 8:18pm
It can be scary to feel like you can't get enough air while you're crying...sometimes the feeling makes you even more upset and you cry harder, and it gets even harder to breathe still! It's important to remember that, even though it feels like you'll run out of air, you are healthy and safe. It can be helpful to take a moment and try to mindfully take a few deep breaths. This break from crying can "reset" you a bit and help your body to calm down. There are lots of videos and visuals around the Internet that feature soothing sounds and motions to breathe along with, too.
June 18th, 2020 9:35pm
Put one hand on your stomach and one hand on your heart, and take three deep breaths. This simple, physical step can be a great place to start towards feeling better. Once I feel myself being more calm, I try to bring logic back into the situation. Why was I crying? What made me so upset? If it's something that I can control, I do whatever I can to make myself feel better. If I can't control it, which is most of the time, I find that venting to a loved one is very helpful. They usually can't fix the problem either, but knowing that someone hears me is important.
June 19th, 2020 3:42pm
If you are crying to the point that you can not breathe, I recommend that you put your arms above your head as this opens up your airways and allows your lungs to expand more fully. It is okay to cry! If it is physically hurting you, try to calm down a bit. You may also want to wash your face, or apply a cool wash-cloth or ice pack to your forehead and/or neck to help cool and relax you. Try taking deep breaths. Also, try reaching out to someone for support, if you are crying this hard often, you could probably benefit from some therapy. Overall, crying is normal and perfectly healthy so do not feel ashamed or embarrassed.
June 24th, 2020 8:43am
I'm so sorry if this happens to you, and I truly hope you are okay!! I'd recommend first sitting up or standing up, put your hands on your head, close your eyes and try to quickly think of something that relaxes you. When you're crying/sobbing that hard you are breathing in and out so quickly you aren't breathing in any actual air. So try to to focus mainly on your breathing, try to slow down. Think of drawing a box, Breath in 3 seconds, breath out 3 seconds, (as you breath in for 3 make a line of the box, then make the next when you breath out) this will help distract you. When you can breath okay, drink lots of water. I hope you're okay! Stay strong!//
June 25th, 2020 1:12pm
Hi there, different people find different methods that work best for them but there are a few things you could think about trying if you find yourself in this situation. Quite a popular one that I have heard frequently is the grounding or 5-4-3-2-1 method (both the same method just different names): this is where you focus on your senses and name 5 things that you can see, 4 things that you can hear, 3 things that you can feel, 2 things that you can smell and 1 thing that you can taste. Another method that people like to use is to fully focus on their breathing rather than using a distraction method. There are short videos that you follow that has typically a moving image, when the image expands you exhale and when it gets smaller you inhale (or however the explanation says to do it). You may be able to find one of these images on the 7 cups anxiety subcommunity. The last method that I will mention is simply talking to someone, it can be a friend, a relative or maybe a listener on here and this can sometimes serve as a distraction and help us focus on ourselves and on our breathing. There are many methods out there, more than just the three I have mentioned so I really hope you find the best one for you.
July 2nd, 2020 1:39am
If you often find yourself struggling to breathe, you've likely moved out of the crying spectrum and into the panic attack spectrum. Often times, it can be difficult to distinguish between intense emotions and a mild panic attack, so I'd recommend reading up about it. Shortness of breath is a main indicator of a panic attack. So next time you feel this coming on, try to observe what other indicators there are- dizziness, fast heartbeat, shaking, sweating, etc. There are ways to learn to cope with frequent panic attacks, but the first step would be to identify whether or not it is a panic attack and then to try and figure out what is triggering it :)
July 7th, 2020 9:30am
remind yourself that you can do this. focus on your breath, not the fact youre struggling to breath. this is what helps me: breath in through your nose for 5 seconds hold your breath for 8 seconds breath out through your mouth for 5 seconds hold your breath for 8 seconds and then you repeat for as long as needed what this does as it calms down your breathing and helps you process all them racing thoughts because you can get yourself into a calm mindset. ive been doing this for years and it takes a bit to remind yourself to do this exercise but after time you get better at telling yourself to do it
July 17th, 2020 5:05pm
I have definitely been in your situation. sometimes, emotions are so overwhelming that it is difficult to regain composure and take a moment. It feels like you're in between consciousness, but it's important that you have someone there that can help you. I like to go on my phone and try to distract myself until i can breathe normalyl again. Take deep breaths and let your mind relax. You got this and once you get over it, you are able to reflect and understand why you felt the way you did. Talk about it with someone, either one of us or friendsfamily.
July 26th, 2020 2:17am
Square breathing. Breathe in while counting to four, hold your breath while counting to four, breathe out while counting to four, hold for four. repeat. Try to imagine yourself drawing a square as you do this, to keep it a pattern. If this doesn't work, you can watch progressive muscle relaxation. This will help you untense your muscles one by one, from your face, neck, shoulders, arms, stomach, hips, thighs, lower legs, and feet. This will help you regulate your breathing slowly as you do this. If you cant get your breathing under control, and you have a breathing problem such as asthma, please use your inhaler. If all fails please call an ambulance.
August 8th, 2020 7:29am
This is how I feel when I'm starting to have a panic attack. I'm not a doctor, so this is NOT a diagnoses. What helps me when I feel this was is the 54321 method for anxiety. I become very conscious of my breathing. Slow and steady breathing for 30 seconds. Once my breathing shows some... i focus on 5 things I can see. Say those things in my head and focus on them. Then 4 things I can touch. Focus and say them in my head. 3 things you can hear. Name them. 2 things you can smell. Still naming them in my head. And finally, one thing you can taste. It only takes a few moments to focus on each thing, but it really does help to ground you and bring you back into your body and into the moment.
August 9th, 2020 5:16pm
If you are crying and you find it difficult to breathe try changing your posture and relaxing your facial muscles. Try talking to yourself in a calm, relaxed voice. Tell yourself that you will turn out okay, whatever the situation, and know that there are people to help you. Draw one deep breath in, hold it for a moment, and then let it back out. In that moment, focus only on the air going in and out of your lungs. Focusing on breathing, as in meditation, can help you to control the emotions you are feeling and help you to restore a sense of inner peace.