It is often the most common advice given when you are highly stressed, anxious or having a panic attack – “just breathe”. Well meaning, yes but frustrating as it is exactly what the person currently under mental strain is trying to do. The advice is correct though but how you breathe is paramount. Today we will explore a technique known as box breathing or square breathing, it has several variations but the core principles remain the same and can be highly effective in many mentally, emotionally and physically taxing moments.
The technique is very simple – break your breathing pattern into four phases which last for either four or five seconds each. It is recommended that you begin with four second intervals then move onto five when you become more comfortable. To perform box breathing, do the following:
- Breathe In for four seconds.
- Maintain the oxygen in your lungs for four seconds (akin to holding your breath while lungs are full).
- Breathe Out for four seconds.
- Maintain empty lungs for four seconds (akin to holding your breath while lungs are empty).
It is very important that you count out each second properly – one (one hundred), two (one hundred), three (one hundred), four (one hundred); speeding through the technique is pointless. Also it helps if you also mentally count out the numbers in your mind as it gives you something to focus on outside of the trigger.
When doing this technique it is highly recommended that you combine it with abdominal breathing to ensure you are activating the entirety of your lungs. Some of the benefits have already been mentioned above but it can also be used to help with physical pain from injury and also assist with insomnia.
Box breathing is a very powerful tool and should be learned well and applied frequently though it is best to seek professional help if your physical, emotional or mental health are creating more strain than you are able to manage yourself.