Simple breathing technique used by Navy Seals and First Responders that calms you immediately

Have you ever wondered how professionals stay calm in the stressful and life-threatening situations that they face on a daily basis? They use a subtle and effective breathing exercise called “box breathing” that de-stresses them in just a few minutes.

Box breathing is a form of deep, present, and conscious breathing. The exhalation of each breath is drawn out so that it lasts longer than the inhalation.

This form of breathing signals the brain to tone down the sympathetic nervous system. This stops the adrenal glands from releasing adrenaline and other hormones responsible for the body’s fight-or-flight response to danger.

At the same time, box breathing also stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system. The latter releases relaxing chemicals that counterbalance the stress response of the sympathetic nervous system.

First responders and special forces commandos are some of the pros who use box breathing to stay calm in the toughest situations they encounter. They vouched for its effectiveness at managing their stress levels whenever they have to make hard decisions on the fly with people’s lives on the line. (Related: Reduce anxiety FAST by knowing how to breathe properly.)

Box breathing interrupts the automatic fight-or-flight response to stress

Humans have two natural responses to danger. Either they stand their ground and fight, or they flee for their lives. This fight-or-flight response has not changed over the millennia; it will trigger if a person encounters anything stressful, be it a predatory animal or a message from a lover announcing a break-up.

Given that its purpose is to keep a human alive in the face of deadly danger, the response exerts very powerful effects on the body. It increases the strength and rate of a heartbeat, and it raises blood pressure as well. These changes ensure the body will have enough energy for fighting off an attacker or running for one’s life.

Once it gets stressed, the human body can take up to three-quarters of an hour before it winds back down to a normal state. And modern society happens to have an endless supply of all kinds of triggers that can keep a person locked in this stressful state for long periods of time.

Box breathing offers a natural way to prevent stress. It can interrupt the fight-or-flight response that normally overrides the normal functions of the brain and body.

In addition, this form of deep breathing triggers alpha waves linked with constructive activity in the brain. A person emits these brainwaves when he or she suddenly experiences an inspiration.

The right way to relax through box breathing

Doing box breathing is almost as simple as counting. Inhale with your diaphragm while counting to five and fill your lungs to their maximum capacity. Then exhale to a slower count of five.

However, avoid the kind of agitated breathing that shoves the shoulders into the ears. That counts as “stress breathing,” a shallow form of breathing that keeps you in the fight-or-flight mode instead of relaxing your stressed body.

In addition to your lungs, you should also expand your stomach to the fullest. Filling your stomach with air opens up space in the belly for your diaphragm, which moves down in order to make room for your expanding lungs.

Once you have the five-count box breathing down pat, you can alter the ratio between inhalation and exhalation. Try exhaling to a longer slow count of eight. After getting used to that, try out deep breathing ratios of 8:16, 10:20, 22:44, or 30:80.

You do not need to be a supremely skilled professional to benefit from box breathing. Just remember to take deep breaths whenever you feel very stressed, and you will regain your calm within minutes.

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