High stress relief.
No matter how zen-like we may be, we can all suffer from stress. Yet just a few minutes can enable us to catch our breath by ‘resetting our breath’. Also called ‘box breathing’, this powerful relaxation technique returns breathing to its normal rhythm, clears the mind, relaxes the body, and restores focus. And it’s easy. You can do it anywhere, though a quiet undisturbed spot helps.
Before starting, just sit with the back supported in a comfortable chair and with feet firmly on the floor. Then, with eyes shut:
1. Breathe in through the nose, counting slowly to four, feeling the air enter the lungs.
2. Hold the breath inside while counting slowly to four again.
3. Begin to slowly exhale, once again slowly counting to 4.
Repeat steps 1 to 3 at least three times. Ideally, repeat for 4 minutes, or until calm returns.
Beginners might only count to 3 – the more adept can count to five or six.
Soldiers, police officers and others experiencing ‘fight-or-flight’ mode are known to use this technique to restore inner calm. This is not only important for their mental well-being, but also for their physical health. In ‘fight-or-flight’ mode, the body feels threatened and reacts, including releasing hormones to make the heart beat faster, breathing quickens, blood sugar levels are boosted. Such stress long term can increase the risk of high blood pressure, headaches, heart attacks, stroke – so instituting a state of calm brings benefits, including the reduction of hormones associated with stress, such as cortisol.
Studies have found the technique can be useful in the reduction of anxiety, depression, and stress, as well as increasing mental clarity, energy, and focus, with a greater ability to manage impulses, such as those associated with smoking and other addictive behaviours. Read more about the benefits of conscious breathing.
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