Anxiety is the most common mental health condition across the globe. There are many causes for it, and different triggers for everyone. Unfortunately, it’s also something that doesn’t just go away on its own. 

Managing anxiety involves getting to the very core of the problem. Talking to a mental health professional is one of the best ways to work through it and eventually find freedom from your fear. 

In addition to getting professional help, there are things you can do on your own to ease your anxiety, especially if it feels overwhelming. 

One of the easiest techniques to help manage anxiety and feelings of panic is called box breathing (also referred to as four-square breathing). This exercise can help ease your anxiety and provide you with a sense of calm when those fearful thoughts creep in. 

What is Box Breathing?

Deep breathing exercises to calm your anxiety are nothing new. Box breathing is unique because it focuses on four “corners” of your breath. The pattern for box breathing focuses on four aspects: 

  • Inhale
  • Hold
  • Exhale
  • Hold

By focusing on that breathing pattern and actually picturing a box or square, your body has more control over the air you’re breathing. This allows you to focus on that pattern and your control over your breath, which can help to reduce feelings of anxiety. Not only does it serve as a distraction away from anxious thoughts, but it helps you feel you have control over something. 

Four-square breathing is so effective and so easy to do, that it’s a technique often used by those in high-stress situations, such as nurses and Navy SEALs. 

How to Do it Correctly

Now that you know the benefits of four-square breathing, how can you make sure you’re doing it correctly? 

The good news is it’s very hard to get it “wrong” as long as you keep the imagery of four corners in your mind as you do it. There are only a few simple steps to follow: 

  1. Sit up straight and exhale slowly through your mouth, getting as much oxygen out of your lungs as possible. While you’re doing this, be conscious of the way you’re breathing and how it feels. 
  2. Inhale slowly through your nose as you count to four. Concentrate on the feeling of air filling your lungs. 
  3. Hold your breath for four counts. 
  4. Exhale once again, slowly counting to four as you do. Pay attention to the air leaving your lungs and how that feels. 
  5. Hold your breath once more for four counts. Start at the beginning and repeat the pattern. 

Even if you’re a beginner to deep breathing exercises, this technique is easy enough for anyone to try. So, whether you want to make it a part of your daily routine or to use it when you’re feeling especially anxious, box breathing is one tool that can help you manage your anxiety regularly. 

What Are the Benefits? 

Almost any deep breathing exercise done with intention can be beneficial to your mind and body. Box breathing is especially effective for anxiety because of the slower way you breathe and the way you hold your breath. There is so much strong evidence about the benefits of deep breathing when it comes to your nervous system, and as you continue to box breathe, you can reduce your stress levels, lower your blood pressure, and even improve your mood. It can be used “in the moment” if you feel a bout of anxiety coming on, or as part of your daily routine to keep fearful thoughts under control and manage your stress. Some people choose to do it at night before bed, to calm themselves down before they try to sleep.  

Even if you’re a beginner to deep breathing exercises, this technique is easy enough for anyone to try. So, whether you want to make it a part of your daily routine or to use it when you’re feeling especially anxious, box breathing is one tool that can help you manage your anxiety.