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Feeling stressed? Here's why you should try box breathing

Author Details

Elise Kopman blog author

Elise Kopman

Occupational Therapist

Monday, May. 16, 2022
A woman deep breathing outside

Ever find yourself feeling overwhelmed or stressed through the day? Box breathing can help and can be done anywhere.

Read on to learn about the benefits of box breathing and examples of how to do it.

What is box breathing and how does it work?

The box breathing technique is often referred to as “resetting your breath.” It is an effective strategy that is simple to do and may reduce stress levels. Box breathing is commonly used by individuals in high-stress situations when the body is in fight-or-flight mode.

Box breathing is shown to help with stress reduction and can promote relaxation. It can also enhance mood and can improve your focus and concentration. Box breathing can help activate the parasympathetic nervous system which is in charge of helping your body feel calm through controlling your heart rate, blood pressure and breathing. Although this breathing exercise can be done anywhere, it is helpful if you can find a quiet space in order to reduce distractions.

Let’s get started

This breathing exercise can be done anywhere and does not require equipment. It can be done while standing or sitting. When first trying out box breathing, start by sitting upright in a chair, with your feet on the ground. This can help you focus on your breathing. Once you get familiar with the exercise, it can become easier to practice in different settings or postures. Follow the diagram below and these steps to begin:

box breathing diagram
Step 1: Focus on maintaining an upright posture and relaxing your shoulders. Slowly count to 4 as you breathe in through your nose.

Step 2: Hold your breath for a count of 4.

Step 3: Exhale slowly through your mouth for a 4 count.

Step 4: Pause for 4 seconds.

Step 5: Repeat steps 1 to 4, ideally 4 times, until you feel re-centered. This may help you better control your breathing and help you feel the release of muscle tension, feel more relaxed or calm. This can be completed as often as you want throughout the day.

Why is box breathing effective?

Box breathing can be a powerful tool when you begin to feel anxious, stressed, or overwhelmed. The great thing about box breathing is that it can be done anywhere and anytime, making it a useful relaxation technique.

Box breathing works by distracting your mind as you focus on your breath and count to four with the aim of returning your breathing to its normal rhythm. This can help calm your nervous system and reduce the feeling of stress within your body, while clearing your mind, relaxing your body and improving focus.

If you are interested in more relaxation techniques, or ever feel like you need support, please reach out. Our mental health professionals can help. Check our locations page to find a clinic near you or book online to schedule an appointment.

This blog was written by Elise Kopman & Reem Al-Kas, while completing their Occupational Therapy studies at University of Western Ontario. Upon graduation, Elise joined the Lifemark team as a Registered Occupational Therapist.

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