Posted on Feb 13, 2019, 7 p.m.
A simple breathing technique used by first responders and Navy SEALs in stressful and life threatening situations called box breathing can help to de-stress and calm you down in just a few minutes.
Box breathing is a form of present, deep, conscious breathing in which each exhaled breath is drawn out to last longer than the inhalation. This type of breathing signals the brain to tone down the sympathetic nervous system, which stops the adrenal glands from releasing adrenaline and other hormones responsible for the fight or flight responses to danger. Box breathing also stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system that releases relaxing chemicals to counterbalance stress responses of the sympathetic nervous system.
Special forces commandos and first responders are just some of the pros who use box breathing to stay calm even in the toughest situations they may encounter, and they have vouched for its effectiveness at managing stress levels whenever hard decisions need to be made on the fly with people’s lives on the line.
Humans have two responses to danger: to either stand their ground and fight; or flee the situation for their lives. This is called fight or flight response, and it has not changed much over the course of time; it will trigger when anything stressful is encountered be it a dangerous situation or a message from a lover announcing a break up.
Fight or flight responses main purpose is to keep a human alive in the presence of deadly danger, and it exerts powerful effects on the body which can increase strength and rate of the heart beat and raise blood pressure. Such changes ensure the body will have enough energy to either run for your life or fight off an attacker.
Once stressed the body can take up to three quarters of an hour before it winds down to a normal state. Modern society seems to have an endless supply of all sorts of trigger that can work to keep a person locked in stressful states for long periods of time.
Box breathing can offer a natural way to prevent stress, and interrupt the fight or flight response that normally overrides normal functions of the mind and body. Box breathing is a deep form of breathing that triggers alpha waves linked with constructive activity in the brain that are emitted when a person experiences an inspiration.
This form of deep breathing is almost as simple as counting. Simply inhale with the diaphragm while counting to 5 and fill the lungs to maximum capacity; then exhale slowly to a longer count of 5.
Ensure to avoid the kind of agitated breathing that shoves the shoulders into the ears as that is shallow stress breathing and will keep the body in fight or flight mode rather than relaxing the stressed mind and body.
When filling the lungs try to expand your stomach, as filling the stomach with air opens up space in the belly for the diaphragm which will move down in order to make room for the expanding lungs.
Once the five count box breathing technique is down pat you can alter the ratio between inhalation and exhalation to trying to exhale to a longer slow count of 8. After that move to deep breathing ratios of 8:16; 10:20; 22:44; or 30:80.
One needs not to be a highly skilled professional to benefit from box breathing, everyone has stress. All you need to do is to remember to take deep calming breaths whenever you feel stressed to regain your calm within minutes. Relax, unwind, and enjoy.
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