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.”
This is #4 on Inverse’s list of the 25 biggest science stories of human potential of 2019.
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.
Box breathing may work because it’s a type of diaphragmatic breathing — deep, abdominal breathing paired with paced respiration. A 2011 study suggested that it only takes one day of consistent diaphragmatic breathing to relieve the emotional exhaustion linked to job burnout, suggesting this breathing technique could hold positive mental and physical health benefits.
Other research suggests breathing techniques may help reduce high blood pressure, improve cardiorespiratory fitness, and induce a slower, healthier heartbeat. People who engage in diaphragmatic breathing also tend to have lower-than-average levels of cortisol, a hormone released in response to stress.
One big takeaway from this research: There’s a difference between just taking a breath, and breathing with intention — and it’s the latter that can make all the difference.
As 2019 draws to a close, Inverse is revisiting 25 striking lessons for humans to help maximize our potential. This is #4. Some are awe-inspiring, some offer practical tips, and some give a glimpse of the future. Read the original article here.