Interviews are a nerve-wracking experience for most people.
Technical interviews, especially at leading tech firms, being very challenging in nature, cause most candidates to experience interview anxiety to varying degrees.
Effects of interview anxiety on breathing
A notable manifestation of interview anxiety is its effect on breathing patterns and rhythms.
Most commonly, when anxious, candidates begin to breathe quicker than normal, in short, shallow breaths.
In severe cases, candidates may even feel suffocated or faint and begin to breathe heavily causing a great deal of discomfort and embarassment.
How improper breathing can affect interview performance
Altered breathing indicates nervousness and can hamper a candidate’s performance during an interview.
When unable to regularise their breathing, candidates tend to grow nervous and panicked.
Candidates become so conscious of their irregular breathing that they become unable to focus on the interview at hand.
This impedes their ability to communicate clearly. Improper breathing also causes facial muscles to tighten making candidates appear less confident and personable.
However, the anxiety brought on by interviews can be reined in by minimising its effects.
One key way to do this is for a candidate to control their breathing.
Breathing exercises to control interview anxiety
Anxiety is triggered as a response to perceived danger.
By regulating breathing, candidates can send calming signals to the rest of their bodies thereby reducing anxiety.
Breathing can be controlled using simple and effective breathing exercises which can be performed easily before or during interviews.
Candidates can utilise these proven techniques to control their breathing and anxiety anywhere.
Candidates often feel more anxious when they arrive at the interview venue and during the interview. These exercises can be easily performed while in the car or as candidates wait before being called in for an interview.
These exercises can also be utilised during the interview, at the start or the session or between questions. Candidates can request interviewers for a moment to gather themselves when they feel anxious during the interview, at which time these quick techniques can be used to quickly regain composure.
5 effective breathing techniques to control interview anxiety
- Deep breathing
Deep breathing is known to have strong calming effects on the body and mind.
When anxious, the body’s natural 'flight or fight' response is activated.
Deep breathing helps regulate this response by working on the vagus nerve which calms the body as it responds to stress.
Deep breathing allows for proper oxygenation of the lungs, releasing tightness in the chest and promoting smoother flow of air to relax the body.
There are different ways to practice deep breathing.
a. Inhale deeply, exhale slowly
To counter shallow breathing -
- Sit up straight and consciously inhale deeply through your nose, filling up your abdomen and chest, and raising your shoulders as you do so.
- Exhale slowly until your body relaxes, settling to its original position.
Repeat this a few times, preferably with your eyes closed, focusing on your breathing as you do so.
To ensure you're inhaling deeply, place your hand over your abdomen as you perform this exercise. Your abdomen or stomach should expand as you inhale and rest as you exhale.
b. Inhale through your nose, exhale through your mouth
To provide immediate relief when stressed, breathe alternatively through your nose and mouth i.e. inhale through your nose, exhale through your mouth.
Exhaling through the mouth releases more air as compared to exhaling through your nose.
An enhanced outflow of air helps relieve the body of tension, quickly.
This exercise is especially helpful in relaxing the jaw and facial muscles.
Employing this technique before the interview or before answering questions can help candidates stave off stress and communicate better.
c. Inhaling positivity, exhaling stress and negativity
When employing deep breathing, envision your intaking positivity as you inhale and releasing negativity as you exhale.
This manner of mindful breathing creates psychological comfort to ease and calm the mind.
By doing this before your interview, you can keep your fears and doubts at bay and stay focused on a positive outcome.
- Abdominal breathing
In this method, you should ensure your abdomen expands as you inhale and contract as you exhale.
This is not a natural method of breathing. However, with practice this can be done with ease whenever anxiousness sets in.
When done in the right manner, it can be done discreetly during an interview to quickly restore breathing to its regular pace when stressed.
- Breathing in counts
If you feel short of breath or if you’re breathing at a faster-than-normal rate, you can stabilise your breathing by counting as you inhale and exhale.
The longer the count, the more relaxed the breathing.
For e.g for a 5 count, count up from 0, all the while inhaling until you reach the count of 5. Similarly, count down from 5, exhaling until you reach 0.
Alternatively, breathe out longer than you breathe in. Do this by adding additional counts as you exhale.
Repeat this a few times until your breathing is restored to a comfortable and regular pace.
Practice this while waiting to be called in for the interview.
Focusing on counts also keeps your mind from entertaining negative thoughts, reducing anxiousness.
- Hold and release
Another way to counter shallow or quick-paced breathing, is by arresting irregular breathing and resetting it to a normal pace.
To do this -
- Inhale slowly
- Hold your breath for a few seconds
Holding your breath will force your breathing to slow down.
Perform this exercise by breathing through your nose to derive its calming benefits.
- Alternate nostril breathing
This involves breathing, alternatively, between the right and left nostrils.
Alternate nostril breathing is said to allow oxygen to flow equally to both sides of the brain.
It is a good way to both relax and rejuvenate yourself.
These exercises can be awkward to practice while already at the interview site. However, this can be done at home before you head out to the interview.
a. Exhaling through each nostril, alternatively
This involves exhalation only i e. exhaling through alternate nostrils in quick succession.
To do this-
- First, press down to close or block your left nostril with your thumb
- Expel air through your right nostril.
- Next, block your right nostril with your ring finger and expel air through your left nostril.
b. Inhaling and exhaling through alternate nostrils.
This involves inhaling through one nostril and exhaling through the other. To do this -
- First, press down to close off or block your left nostril with your thumb
- Inhale deeply through your right nostril
- Next, block your right nostril with your ring finger
- Exhale slowly through your left nostril.
Repeat this a few times then switch sides i.e. inhale through the left nostril and exhale through the right nostril.
c. Inhaling and exhaling through a single nostril
This involves breathing exclusively through each nostril. To do this -
- Block the right nostril
- Inhale and exhale through the left nostril. Remember to inhale deeply and exhale slowly.
- Repeat this five times keeping the right nostril blocked.
- Switch sides i.e. breathe exclusively through right nostril, keeping the left nostril blocked.
Breathing through the left nostril stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system which helps the body relax and calm down. Breathing through the right nostril rejuvenates or energises the body.
Practiced breathing to control anxiety
These breathing techniques are quick and easy to perform before, during, or after an interview to quell interview anxiety and stress.
However, to derive the best results, these exercises should be practiced regularly, if not daily.
One way to do this is to make it a part of the interview preparation process.
Employing these breathing techniques as part of the interview preparation or in the run up to the interview, can indirectly prevent anxiety from setting in.
Breathing exercises can provide additional benefits such as a more relaxed mind to absorb new information, improved focus, help regulate sleep cycles, and boost energy levels to prevent fatigue.
This contributes to building emotional resilience, lessening the probability and severity of interview anxiety.
(Disclaimer: Exercise due caution in case of medical concerns or any doubts regarding the impact of these exercises on personal health)