Experience instant calm, restore inner peace and regulate digestion with this simple breathing technique
“Box breathing?!” I questioned with a puzzled face. When a friend first suggested this as a stress-busting technique, I had visions of myself clambering into a box, closing the lid and taking deep breaths. “How on earth is that going to help me relax?” I thought to myself.
But, thankfully, this isn’t at all what box breathing is about. Box breathing is a breathwork sequence alternating between four-second periods of taking slow, deep breaths and holding your breath, resulting in a pattern similar to that of a square, hence the name ‘box’ breathing. It has been found to encourage better sleep and improve concentration while also being a powerful stress and anxiety reliever.
And it’s no secret that 2020 has been a stressful year for most of us. According to new research, almost one in five adults were likely to be experiencing some form of depression during the coronavirus pandemic in June 2020, almost doubling from around one in 10 before the pandemic (July 2019 to March 2020). 84.9% of adults experiencing some form of depression stated feeling stressed or anxious was the most common way their wellbeing was being affected.
While it’s important to recognise these unsettling statistics, we shouldn’t dwell on them. Instead, if you are one of the people who have experienced stress this year (like myself), I aim to provide you with hope that there is a way to control it, restore inner peace and combat a main culprit in stomach discomfort. As International Stress Awareness Week begins, using this time and beyond to learn how to cope with and address stress is more important than ever. That’s why I’m sharing this effective stress-relieving exercise which comprises of four simple steps and uses one tool we all have access to — our breath.
When I first tried this, I was surprised at the instant calming effect that it provided. I sometimes do this lay in bed as a way to unwind before sleep if I’ve had a particularly busy or stressful day.
So, find yourself a quiet spot (preferably not a box) where you won’t be disturbed and let’s begin…
- Inhale through your nose for a count of four.
- Hold for a count of four.
- Exhale through your nose for a count of four.
- Hold for a count of four.
- Then repeat for a few cycles. You should start to feel your heart rate slow and the tension release from your body and mind.
Use this video’s prompts as a guide:
You may experience dizziness after a few rounds, but this is normal. If you get dizzy, stay sitting and resume normal breathing for a minute. As you practice this exercise more often, you’ll be able to do it for longer without experiencing dizziness.
TIP: If you’re struggling to breathe through your nose, simply breathe through your mouth if this feels more comfortable.
Benefits of box breathing for gut health
As well as helping to alleviate stress, which is a common cause of abdominal discomfort, box breathing has many other benefits for our gut health:
- It can be an efficient way to manage pain such as stomach cramps.
- It can calm and regulate your autonomic nervous system (ANS) which controls functions such as the stomach digesting food.
- It acts as a natural treatment for insomnia and can help you to sleep better. Sufficient sleep is essential for healthy digestion.
- Not only does it help to reduce stress levels, but it can have a positive impact on your future reactions to stress too.
- It can encourage you to adopt a more positive outlook. And, as I always say, a happy mind = a happy tummy.
What is International Stress Awareness Week?
Following the establishment of Stress Awareness Day in 1998, the International Stress Management Association (ISMA) expanded this campaign by creating International Stress Awareness Week which has developed into a major annual event to raise awareness about stress prevention and management. This year’s event will include the first-ever Online Global Stress and Wellbeing Summit. Find out what subjects will be addressed at this year’s event.
Has this technique worked for you? Want to share a breathing exercise? Get in touch.
While box breathing may help to alleviate stress and anxiety, it should not be used as a substitute for medical care. Consult a medical professional if you are concerned about your mental and/or digestive health.