When you’re under stress, the way you breathe can compound how you’re feeling. Many of us start to take quick, shallow breaths, which tends to make us feel worse.
However, if you can take control of your breath, it can help you get a handle on the situation. Box breathing is a technique designed to help you do just that.
To explain how to do box breathing and how it can help when you’re under pressure, here’s Stuart Sandeman, founder of breathing and coaching company Breathpod (opens in new tab).
What is box breathing?
Box breathing, also known as four-square breathing, is a breathing technique where the inhale, the holding of the breath and the exhale are all equal. You inhale for a count of four, hold your breath at the top for a count of four, exhale for four and then hold for another four.
Over time, it is possible to increase this to 5,5,5,5 or 6,6,6,6 once you get used to the technique. The practice is used by the Navy Seals to feel calm, energised and focused before going into a hostile situation.
How does it help?
Box breathing through the nose helps slow down the breathing rhythm, and affects heart rate and digestion. It lowers blood pressure and provides an almost-immediate sense of calm, improves your mood and will also keep you energised, motivated and alert.
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What are good situations to use the technique?
Box breathing is good for when you want to create calm, and relax your mind and body, yet still feel energised. Use it whenever you want to reset and feel an increase in mental clarity, energy and focus – it’s a great technique for responding to a high-stress situation like meetings, presentations or exams, or even in social settings. Box breathing will be a great technique to use as we re-enter normal life again after lockdown, and adapt back into social settings and work environments.
How long should you do it for?
You can repeat rounds as many times as you like until you feel a sense of calm and focus. Start with four rounds and see how you go.
Nick Harris-Fry is a journalist who has been covering health and fitness since 2015. Nick is an avid runner, covering 70-110km a week, which gives him ample opportunity to test a wide range of running shoes and running gear. He is also the chief tester for fitness trackers and running watches, treadmills and exercise bikes, and workout headphones.
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