top of page
  • Writer's pictureGeorge Whitaker

Box Breathing for Anxiety and Stress

Box Breathing is a simple but very effective breathing technique that anyone can use to help calm their mind and body.

What is Box Breathing?

Also referred to sometimes as 'square breathing', it is a technique that slows down our breathing. Often, in times of stress or anxiety, our breathing rate increases and becomes more shallow - this technique helps to calm down that breathing, giving us more conscious control of the situation.

Box Breathing is used by many people to calm their minds in times of overwhelm and stress. It is used frequently by people in high-stress careers, such as the US Navy Seals, police officers, fire fighters and paramedics.

You may have heard this technique go by other names:

- 4×4 breathing

- 4-4-4-4 breathing

- Equal breathing

- Four-square breathing

What can Box Breathing Help with?

Reduce Stress - it is a brilliant technique to use in times of stress. By calming our breath, we can lower the levels of stress hormones such as cortisol.

Lower Blood Pressure - reducing levels of those stress hormones (such as adrenaline and cortisol) can also help to reduce our blood pressure.

Moves us out of 'fight, flight or freeze' mode - when we are stressed, we fall into our primitive defence mechanism, often known as 'fight, flight or freeze' mode (the sympathetic nervous system). By controlling our breath and calming our mind, we can fall back into that parasympathetic nervous system (responsible for rest and digestion).

Helps to calm our minds - it can bring some calm and mindfulness to our minds and bodies, even when we're not feeling stressed.

How does Box Breathing work?

The 4-second holds are an important point to this technique's effectiveness. This hold allows CO2 to increase in our blood.

This, along with the exhale, results in a feeling of calmness. It does this by enhancing the cardio-inhibitory response of our vagus nerve, stimulating our parasympathetic system.

How do I do Box Breathing?

Get comfortable, then click the video below and follow along ...

Steps to Box Breathing

  1. Breathe out slowly, releasing all the air from your lungs.

  2. Breathe in through your nose as you slowly count to four in your head...

  3. Hold your breath for a count of four.

  4. Exhale for another count of four.

  5. Hold your breath again for a count of four.

  6. Repeat for three to four rounds.


Box breathing is a simple but effective technique that can be used whenever we want. That could be in times of stress or just when we want to take 5 minutes out to relax in the midst of our day.

Give it a go - I'm sure you'll find it a useful addition to your stress management toolbox!

References/ Scientific Studies

Effectiveness of diaphragmatic breathing for reducing physiological and psychological stress in adults: a quantitative systematic review


Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page