Box Breathing to Reduce Stress and Anxiety

If you have been reading my previous posts, it has been a common theme that I believe that focusing on your mental health is just as important as your physical health. Not being able to control your stress and anxiety issues can wreak havoc on your physical health and body composition. Check out my previous blog post about stress’ negative effect on the body here. If you find that stress and anxiety may be causing some issues for you, I have a tool that can be used to reduce your stress and anxiety in as little as 5 minutes. This tool is called “box breathing”.

I was first introduced to box breathing by Mark Devine. Mark is a former Navy Seal who now trains military professionals, SWAT, first responders, professional athletes, and aspiring navy seals (among others).

Box breathing is a controlled breathing technique. Controlled breathing is a form of meditation. This technique is very simple and can be done anytime, anywhere when you are feeling stressed. It helps calm your nerves and relieves stress by regulating your autonomic nervous system.

Box breathing is named after the way the technique is performed. You breath in for 4 seconds, hold your breath for 4 seconds, breath out for 4 seconds, and then let the air stay out for 4 seconds. See below for a more in depth explanation: 

Step 1 

Close your mouth and breathe in slowly through your nose. Count to four as you are inhaling. Now after you complete the inhale, hold your breath for four seconds. The purpose of the breath hold is not to try to deprive your body of oxygen, but to allow a few seconds for the air to fill. Try to concentrate on your stomach and feel as it expands and contracts as you inhale and exhale.

Step 2 

Open your mouth through pursed lips and slowly exhale to a count of four. Hold the exhale to another count of four. This is one round. You will begin to feel the benefits in as little as 3 rounds. Allow yourself at least 4-5 minutes to allow your body to relax further.

Tip: Perform this technique if you are feeling stressed or anxious. Focus on your breath and relax. You can also perform this technique immediately after your workout for 5-10 minutes to begin the recovery phase.

*Unbeatable Mind: Forge Resiliency and Mental Toughness to Succeed at an Elite Level. 3rd Edition. Written by Mark Devine.

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