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Box Breathing: A Simple Exercise To Help Ease Your Anxiety

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. 

Is Therapy Right for You? When It’s Time to See a Therapist and How it Can Help

I am often asked by friends and family members if I think they should go to therapy for various concerns they have. My answer is usually, “it depends.” One of the biggest factors that will determine what you get out of therapy is whether you are motivated to work on yourself, including increasing your self-awareness and changing behaviors that are no longer serving you.

There are many different types of therapy available, and many different types of therapists to choose from. Research has found time and time again that the factor that most influences whether you will see good results from therapy is your relationship with your therapist. This means that when you are looking for a therapist it is so important to find someone that seems like a good fit for your personality, and someone that you feel truly comfortable with.

Therapy can be a great option for improving your mood, relationships, and overall functioning at work, school, and home. However, it’s something that you need to be ready to invest the time, money, and energy into.

Sometimes people hold off on going to therapy because they want to try to handle what they are going through on their own. They may also not know the warning signs of different mental health conditions, or they’ve heard stereotypes about therapy over the years that are keeping them away. Sometimes people don’t need therapy in order to deal with what they are going through; however, sometimes it would help make that struggle a lot easier to deal with.

Do You Need Therapy? 

People use therapy for different reasons. Some people go to therapy as an act of self-care and use it in order to maintain a healthy mental state. Others go when they notice emotional or behavioral problems that are causing them distress.

The American Psychological Association suggests that an individual can benefit from therapy when something is causing enough distress in their lives to interfere with the way they live. As you might expect, that looks different for everyone. 

For example, you might have feelings of anxiety sometimes that you try to control and keep inside. You are still able to get through your day, but you’ve noticed the anxiety impacting your life more and more. Therapy can be a good option when: 

  • The things that you are worrying about are on your mind for several hours a day.
  • You want to avoid others (including people you care about) because of the anxiety.
  • You have tried to develop your own coping techniques, but they aren’t working for you anymore.
  • Your quality of life has decreased.

If you feel controlled by your symptoms, therapy is a great option. It can help you take control again and learn how to manage your symptoms in a safe, healthy way. 

A Better Way to Cope

Everyone tries to find ways to deal with uncomfortable emotions when they come up. Some coping mechanisms are helpful. Others are harmful. 

Therapy can take you beyond just trying to cope with the negative feelings. Once you’re able to get to the root of an issue with a therapist, you can learn the skills needed to resolve the problems that are causing the symptoms in the first place.  

As a result, you might start to feel less overwhelmed and less fatigued. Feelings of fear and/or hopelessness may fade. While therapy isn’t some kind of “quick fix” or instant cure for any mental health condition, it puts you back in the driver’s seat of your own mental health. Therapy can be a great strengthening tool to help you work through your symptoms, rather than trying to make them disappear overnight. 

If you’re still on the fence about whether therapy is right for you, feel free to contact me. We can discuss any questions you have about whether therapy might be a good choice for you and your current situation.  

Why Most People Misunderstand Anxiety

Anxiety is one of the most prominent mental health conditions across the globe. In the U.S. alone, it’s estimated that 40 million adults deal with some type of anxiety disorder. 

And yet, anxiety is still incredibly misunderstood. 

Perhaps one of the biggest reasons it’s often misunderstood is because we have belittled it so much. Do you know people who say things like, “I almost had a panic attack when I couldn’t find my keys!” or “I like to keep things neat, I’m so OCD.” Chances are, that situation didn’t actually cause a panic attack and that person who likes to be organized does not actually have Obsessive Compulsive Disorder.

So, when someone with true anxiety comes forward, it’s easy for people to assume that it doesn’t mean much. Even people with anxiety can misunderstand it. Since it can be confusing, here are some ways you can better understand anxiety.

Understanding the Definition 

Part of the difficulty in understanding what people mean when they say they have anxiety is that there is a difference between having anxiety and having an anxiety disorder. defines anxiety as “distress or uneasiness of mind caused by fear of danger or misfortune.” According to this definition, it would make sense that everyone has experienced the feeling of anxiety at some point in their life. The difference between anxiety and an anxiety disorder is that an anxiety disorder is something that is occurring for a substantial period of time and is causing significant impairment in a person’s functioning in different areas of their life.

So if someone were to say to you that they are struggling with anxiety, it can be important to get more information from them in order to fully understand how much the anxiety is impacting them. They could be worried about an upcoming test or a meeting with their boss, and their feelings of anxiety may decrease after that event. On the other hand, they could be having panic attacks everyday whenever they have to leave the house. These two situations are obviously very different, and would require different types of support.

Dealing With an Anxiety Disorder

Another reason some people misunderstand anxiety is because they don’t want to admit they may have a mental health condition. People may feel comfortable acknowledging that they are “stressed” or “worried,” but they often do not go into details about how debilitating the stress or worrying has become. Since stress is something everyone experiences, it is not stigmatized in the same way that an anxiety disorder might be.

However, it is so important to acknowledge what you are actually experiencing, at least to a mental health professional, so that you can get a proper diagnosis. Anxiety disorders are very treatable, but they rarely go away on their own.

If you feel you may have an anxiety disorder, feel free to contact me for more information or to set up a time to talk. This will help you understand more about what you are experiencing, and learn some steps to be able to manage it. 


2805 Peachtree Industrial Blvd.
Suite 115
Duluth, GA 30097

Appointments available to serve clients in Gwinnett county and in the areas of:
    Alpharetta, Roswell,
    Johns Creek, Norcross,
    Duluth, Lilburn,
    Lawrenceville, Suwanee,
    and Doraville.

Online therapy appointments available to individuals and couples throughout the state of Georgia.