Every day we wake up to a buffet of stressful events, with menu items ranging from “TikTok says our hairstyle is cheugy” to “Society is collapsing around us.” It’s not uncommon for us to get lost in our anxious thoughts. To stop the stress spiral, we started using box breathing. It helps calm us down in the short term, plus practicing it regularly has long-term benefits. Learn more about this breathing technique below.
What is box breathing?
Box breathing is a technique rooted in yogic practice and involves breathing in counts of four: inhale for four counts, hold for four counts, exhale for four counts, hold for four counts. If that feels too intense, you can scale back the number of counts.
How to do it:
1. Sit in a comfortable upright position, and slowly exhale all the air in your lungs.
2. Inhale deeply through your nose for a slow count of four, paying attention to the air filling your lungs and belly.
3. Hold your breath for a slow count of four.
4. Exhale through your mouth for a slow count of four, releasing all the air in your lungs.
5. Hold your breath for a slow count of four.
6. Repeat steps two through five.
How does it help with anxiety?
When we feel stressed or anxious, our sympathetic nervous system (which includes functions that happen automatically, like breathing) is in fight-or-flight mode. Among other things, this causes our hearts to pound faster and our breathing to become quicker.
The box breathing method helps us calm down because we are consciously controlling our breathing. Studies have also shown that deep breathing exercises can help lower levels of cortisol, aka the stress hormone. There’s even some evidence that regularly practicing this type of breathing can help us respond better to stress in future situations. And with the way the stress buffet menu keeps growing, we’re definitely going to need all the help we can get.
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