Box Breathing – a simple way to stress-proof yourself

The simple mindful breathing technique I’m going to share with you here is a natural tranquilizer for the nervous system.

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 to help soldiers remain calm in 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.

Note: 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.

The author: Rob Plevin

Rob Plevin discovered mindfulness as a means of overcoming Post Traumatic Stress Disorder following a near-fatal knife attack in 2010. He trained with a Zen Master and became a meditation teacher in 2013 after noticing that mindfulness had completely changed every area of his life for the better. He teaches mindfulness online at and with his partner Sally from their home in the English Lake District
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