Just Breathe

Julie Walker, Take Control Staff

If you're feeling anxious, overwhelmed, stressed, nervous, or drained it is time to rest your mind. Meditation has become popular for good reason - it's been scientifically validated to improve both physical and psychological health in hundreds of ways. But you don't have to be a guru, yogi, or spend hours meditating to benefit from meditation techniques. All you need to do is know how to breathe. And the good news is that you were born knowing how!

Stress can invoke our fight-or-flight response, which releases hormones that make the heart beat faster, breathing to quicken, and boost blood sugar levels. When we experience this response frequently or over long periods of time it can have adverse consequences on our health. Deep breathing, or resting our breath, calms that response. When continued long term, breathing techniques have even more substantial health benefits.

Box breathing, also called square or four-square breathing, is a simple meditation technique that anyone can do, in any place, at any time. It is a technique for taking slow, deep breaths. The following graphics were designed to give you an easy visual and timer to follow while you breathe:

Breathe In - Breathe Out Graphic

Inhale - Exhale Graphic

Here's how to start:

  1. Find a quiet place to be alone - at your desk or with a phone or tablet to see the graphic
  2. Open one of the graphics above
  3. Sit upright in a comfortable position, an upright posture helps you take deep breaths
  4. Keep your hands relaxed in your lap with palms up
  5. Start with the breathing out or the exhale part of the graphic, and slowly breathe out with the timing of the graphic
  6. When it switches to breathing in or inhaling, switch to slowly inhaling with the timing of the graphic
  7. If thoughts come into your head, acknowledge them and go back to focusing on breathing
  8. Repeat the pattern at least 3 times. Ideally, work up to repeating the pattern for up to 4 minutes or until you feel calm.

This breathing method is an introduction to calming the mind and a simple meditation technique. Once you master it, feel free to explore more developed meditation techniques to get even greater benefits. There are many different ways to meditate, so if this method doesn't appeal to you there is likely a different method that will. I highly recommend a book called 8 Minute Meditation by Victor Davich. This book teaches 8 different meditation techniques over 8 weeks, and explains it in easy to understand terms. Give it a try and let your coach know how it goes. There are so many variations and methods that if this doesn't work for you, your coach can suggest a method that may resonate more with your personality. Namaste!