When you’re experiencing anxiety to the degree that it is making it difficult for you to function, you want strategies that you can implement immediately. You don’t always have time to journal, exercise or call a friend. You need skills that will help intervene with how you are feeling at the exact moment that you are feeling it. Something that can help calm you when you feel as though you are going down a negative hole fueled by anxiety.
Box Breathing, also known as four-square breathing, is a simple, yet effective technique that you can do anywhere and anytime that you are feeling anxious and stressed out. According to the Mayo Clinic, focused breathing calms the nerves and relieves stress by helping to regulate and calm the autonomic nervous system. This system can lower blood pressure and provide an almost immediate sense of peace and calm.
The great thing about Box Breathing, is not only can you practice it wherever you are, but it only takes a minute or two before you start to experience the benefits from it. It won’t take long for you to feel more relaxed and calmer.
Box Breathing is called four-square breathing because it focuses on all four corners of the breath; the inhale, the breath hold, the exhale and the breath hold.
If possible, sit with your back supported in a comfortable chair with your feet on the ground.
You don’t have to wait for a perfect circumstance to do it. You can practice box breathing while on a walk, while stuck in traffic, while in a restaurant; you can practice it anywhere.
Imagine a square…it can be a window, a picture on a wall, anything with 4 corners. Close your eyes, relax your body and mind and begin.
- The inhale: breathe in through your nose, counting slowly to 4
- The breath hold: Hold your breath, counting slowly to 4
- The exhale: Slowly exhale counting to 4
- The breath hold: Hold your breath after the exhale and count slowly to 4
- Repeat at least 4x for at least 4-5 minutes
A helpful technique to add while breathing, is to repeat an affirmation or mantra along with your counting. Try to come up with something that is 4 syllables that matches the counts of four; something like “I will be ok” can work well. This helps put you in a positive frame of mind while relaxing and calming your breaths.
Benefits of Box Breathing:
- Improves sleep habits
- Reduces heart rate
- Helps lower blood pressure
- Reduces stress and anxiety
- Clears the mind and helps with concentration and focus
- Regulates the nervous system
Practice Box Breathing several times a day or as needed, to reduce anxiety, clear your mind and improve concentration. Breathe in. Hold. Breathe out. Hold.