In moments of acute stress, it can be difficult to breath easy. When the “fight or flight” response is activated, the sympathetic nervous system activates rapid breathing. In the best-case scenario, this helps one overcome an emergency situation. But sometimes, it escalates into a panic attack.
But there are things you can do to stop panic in its tracks — and they all come back down to breath. In June 2019, Lynne Everatt, co-author of The 5-Minute Recharge, told Inverse that the technique she uses to attain a sense of calm is “box breathing.” It’s a Navy SEAL tactic that triggers relaxation in tense situations.
“I use it a lot,” Everatt explained at the time. “You can be in the middle of an incoming panic, and say ‘hold on,’ I’m going to take control of my body.”
Here’s how to use box breathing: Start by sitting upright with your feet flat on the floor. Then, after slowly exhaling, slowly inhale through the nose to the count of four. Let that air fill the lungs, while holding your breath for another steady count of four. Next, exhale through the mouth for another count of four. Finally, hold your breath again for four more beats. And repeat.