The simple mindful breathing technique I’m going to share with you here is a natural tranquilizer for the nervous system. It can heighten performance and concentration while also being a powerful stress reliever.
The effects are subtle when you first try the exercise but become more obvious with repetition and practice. Variations of this controlled breathing method are actually used by elite athletes to improve performance and by the military and US Navy Seals to help soldiers remain calm & focused in extremely traumatic conditions.
The technique is called Box Breathing and is best explained with the aid of the following diagram..
As you can see, the pattern is simply a box (hence the name), whereby you inhale to a count of 4, hold for a count of 4, exhale to the same count of 4 and hold again for 4. You can start at 3 if this is difficult, or take it up a notch if easy. You should be reasonably comfortable throughout the exercise – don’t stretch yourself so that breathing and/or holding becomes a strain.
Repeat the box breathing cycle 4-6 times in any one sitting and you can do the exercise several times a day as needed to calm your nerves and relieve stress.
Note: You may get dizzy after a few rounds when you first try this breathing method but don't worry, this is normal. As you practice it more often, you’ll be able to go longer without the dizziness. If you get dizzy, stay sitting for a minute and resume normal breathing. Box breathing is best practiced in a relaxed setting – it is a way of ‘preparing’ yourself for stressful situations rather than a remedial technique to be used in the middle of arguments and other stressful events – for the simple reason that it’s best not to hold your breath in such circumstances. Once the technique becomes more familiar and you get used to focusing on your breath in this way, you’ll then find you can tune into it during stressful encounters without fear of holding your breath too long.