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Why do Therapists suggest box breathing?

Deep breathing is a relaxation technique performed by taking slow, deep breaths. Whether you think about breathing or not, it happens. But when you give your breath some thought, incredible things occur. When practiced regularly, deep breathing can provide relief from stress, anxiety, shallow breathing or sleeping disorders.

The stress response to deep breathing

During periods of anxiety, the body triggers a set of symptoms, including shallow and rapid breathing, increased heart rate and tense muscles. When you’re stuck in this “fight or flight” mode, and feeling anxious or jumpy it’s harder to focus and harder to make good decisions. Similarly, the body’s stress hormones, such as adrenaline and cortisol, serve important purposes. But if these chemicals show up at the wrong time, such as when we’re under excessive pressure, they can lead to poor decision making and explosive emotions.

The relaxation response to deep breathing

By taking deeper and slower breaths, you calm and relax your nervous system, which decreases the symptoms of anxiety. Deep breathing helps the body cope with stress by lowering your heart rate, blood pressure, breaths per minute, and even lowering the level of stress chemicals in your body. Taking time out of each day for deep breathing can help you reduce stress, feel calmer and have more energy. Breathing mindfully, can change the way you think and process emotions. And when your heart rate slows, this tells your body that you’re safe and there’s no need to worry about a lurking threat. This lets your brain direct all of your attention to the task at hand.

Rules to follow during your deep breathing practice

Try deep breathing twice a day, for at least five minutes. When first starting out, it’s best to practice when you’re in a relatively relaxed and calm state. You need to be comfortable breathing this way when feeling calm, before trying to do it when you’re already anxious. Once you’re comfortable with this deep-breathing technique, you can start using it in situations that cause anxiety.

How to Practice Box Breathing:
  1. Breathe in slowly through your nose for 4 seconds
  2. Hold the air in your lungs for 4 seconds
  3. Breathe out slowly through your mouth for 4 seconds
  4. Repeat anywhere between 5-20 minutes

Your Therapy is a safe, welcoming, counselling practice offering confidential mental health assessment and treatment in the Greater Toronto Area. Thanks for reading, and, as always, please feel free to reach out with questions about mental wellness and depression therapy in Toronto.

Farah Sheikh is a Registered Social Worker, Psychotherapist at Your Therapy, providing Individual, Couple and Family Therapy.

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