Nicholas Bartos photo via unsplash
Even as hope appears on the horizon with respect to the COVID-19 pandemic now that vaccine rollout is ramping up, Americans remain besieged by unprecedented anxiety. As such, your personal threshold for stress is probably lower right now, which means you may find yourself going from zero to panic in mere moments. To combat this overwhelm, it’s helpful to have a number of tools on tap—and you’d be hard-pressed to find one with a better endorsement than box breathing, a calming technique used by elite U.S. Navy SEALs.
The practice itself, which gets its name because there are four equal parts to it, is super simple. It works on the principle that slowing down your breathing helps you to relax, increases your oxygen intake, releases tension, and stimulates the vagus nerve, which is the longest nerve in your body and starts in the brain. One of its main functions is to slow the sympathetic stress response, says Erika Polsinelli, a Kundalini yoga teacher and founder of Evolve by Erika, a virtual wellness center. She points out that some pilot research published in the journal, Brain Stimulation, shows that stimulating it may improve anxiety.
And the more you do box breathing on a regular basis, the more you will notice stress doesn’t affect you the same way, says Rabinowitz. “So absolutely use it when needed, but don’t just wait for a stressful moment,” she suggests. “Find five minutes wherever you can, and watch the way you react to life start to change.”
How to do box breathing
- Set a timer for five minutes.
- Sit with a straight spine on the floor or in a chair with your feet flat.
- Close your eyes and inhale for a count of four.
- Hold your breath for a count of four.
- Exhale for a count of four.
- Hold for a count of four.
- Repeat until the alarm sounds.
Something to try when you’re feeling stressed.
Article by Erin Bunch for Well + Good