If you experience stress – tension for a presentation or nerves before a meeting – it is hard to calm yourself with words or rational thinking. This makes sense, because if we experience stress our prefrontal cortex – the part of the brain that is responsible for rational thinking – is weakened. Often you know there is actually no need to be stressed. However, you still are stressed which impedes your performance. Breathing is an effective way to lower stress immediately.

It works like this: if we start to breath in deep, regular and slowly, we give our body and brain a signal that we are relaxed. It is shown by this article; in 2020 published by the Harvard Business Review. Breathing deeply stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system. This nervous system is responsible for rest, recovery and relaxation. With deep breathing you can calm yourself, and you return to the ability to think rationally again.

Do you want to experience what deep breathing can do? The so-called ‘’box breathing’’ is a way of breathing in which you visualize a square. Research from 2016 shows that people who do this breathing routine on a daily basis, feel less anxious.

  • Breath in for 4 seconds
  • Hold your breath for 4 seconds
  • Breath put for 4 seconds
  • Repeat

Both breathing in and out slowly, and temporarily holding your breath, activates your parasympathetic nervous system. Because you have to focus on the counting, there is not much space left for other thoughts, and you can enhance your focus. Therefore, the box breathing is a very effective way to calm yourself. Did you know Navy Seals use this technique to stay calm and focused in stressful situations? It’s a proven concept!