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Try This One Thing Next Time You Feel Stressed or Anxious: The Physiological Sigh

Stress and anxiety are common experiences for many of us, but autistic people can encounter these feelings particularly intensely. A simple breathing technique known as the physiological sigh can help manage these moments of distress quickly and effectively.

The Science Behind the Physiological Sigh

The physiological sigh is a breathing pattern that involves a double inhale followed by a long exhale. This method was highlighted by Dr. Andrew Huberman, a neuroscientist, who explains that this specific way of breathing can help reset the respiratory system and calm the nervous system. Essentially, it helps reduce anxiety by stabilising the levels of carbon dioxide and oxygen in our blood, promoting a calm state.

How to Perform a Physiological Sigh

To practice a physiological sigh and gain its benefits, follow these simple steps:

  1. Take a deep breath in through your nose, filling your lungs completely.

  2. Immediately take another smaller breath in with your nose to top up your lungs.

  3. Exhale all the air slowly through your mouth, making the exhale longer than the inhale.

It's helpful to practice this technique during calm moments so it becomes easier to apply when you need it.


The physiological sigh is a quick, easy method to help control acute stress and anxiety. Its simplicity and effectiveness make it ideal for anyone, especially those who find traditional stress management techniques less suitable.

Regularly practising the physiological sigh will make it more likely that you will remember to use the technique in stressful moments (it's so easy to forget things when you are stressed or anxious).


For a more detailed understanding of the physiological sigh and a physical demonstration, watch Dr. Andrew Huberman's video below.

Please note there are 5 seconds of music at the start, which might feel uncomfortable if you are noise sensitive (we recommend starting the video 5 seconds in).

Here is a diagram illustrating the technique:

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