October 17th, 2018
breathing exercise for stress

Easy Breathing Exercise To Reduce Stress

Stress from work, stress from social anxiety, stress from just about anything… stress and anxieties are eventually what kills us all. However, some people are more prone to stress symptoms than others. These symptons can include:

  • Elevated heart rate
  • Rapid and/or Shallow Breathing
  • Hot forehead and elevated body temperature
  • Dizziness
  • Trembling
  • Dry mouth
  • Headaches
  • Insomnia
  • Upset stomach

The list goes on…

It is important to remember that most symptoms of stress and anxiety are PHYSICAL. While your mind may race and worry about whatever is causing the episode, there are things you can do to alleviate some of the physical symptoms of stress and anxiety.

Square Breathing Technique

Our favorite and perhaps the easiest breathing exercise for anxiety, is square breathing (also called 4-square breathing, tactical breathing, box breathing etc.). It relies on breathing in four second intervals.

Using this method to calm and control your breathing pattern slows down the fight or flight response that your body may be experiencing and calms your nerves and pulse.

This technique, or variations of it, is used by military and law enforcement agencies to combat stress in the line of duty and is also similar to different yoga breathing exercises.

Square breathing is also an extremely easy de-stress technique that can help clear your head if you’re pressed for time and have a lot of work ahead of you. The best part about it is, it can be done anywhere, whether alone in your room or on a crowded subway train.

Step 1: The Set Up

Find a comfortable sitting position. Inhale a slow deep breath through your nostrils. Hold the breath for a few seconds, and then through pursed lips slowly exhale.

While you exhale try to lower your shoulders away from your neck. If you’re not able to find a place to sit or get comfortable, don’t worry, you can start the breathing pattern from any position.

Step 2: Square Breathing

Square breathing is done in this order: Inhale, Hold, Exhale, Hold. For every step, take four seconds:

Inhale for Four Seconds
Hold for Four Seconds
Exhale for Four Seconds
Hold for Four Seconds

Inhale through the nose, and feel the breath fill up your belly, expanding your abdomen. As you exhale, try to empty your stomach of breath. Perform this for 2-3 minutes.


Remember, this breathing technique is an immediate antidote for stress and can assist with sudden onset of panic, anxiety and stress.

If you are experiencing bouts of stress and anxiety regularly, there are other more long-term ways to help yourself including regular meditation, yoga, time in nature, intensive exercise as well as removing yourself from stress-inducing substances like electronics, crowds, and negative people/energy.

Also, talking helps. Whether to a therapist or loved one, the act of simply saying aloud what’s causing these bouts can be therapeutic and helpful.

Evan Clark

Evan Clark is a former wildland firefighter turned fitness pro (NSCA CPT). Though he loves his heavy squat and deadlift sessions, he believes that health and fitness extend well beyond the gym and that fitness should be a tool to promote mental health and lifestyle balance.

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