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This Easy Technique Melts Stress in Just 30 Seconds

By Jezmina von Thiele
March 11, 2022

Most of the time, breathing is just an involuntary action, a part of life we don’t consider as we go on about our days. And that’s a good thing — can you imagine how distracting it would be if we had to remember to breathe every time our bodies needed a gulp of oxygen? We’d never get anything done. But as it turns out, breathing has more effects on the body than just oxygenating our blood. Our breath directly affects our nervous system responses, cortisol levels, and blood pressure, which is why breathing exercises have been shown in studies to effectively reduce stress.

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When we’re stressed out, it’s tempting to take shallow, quick breaths, or begin hyperventilating, which only exacerbates stress. When you’re in a stressful moment, however, you can always take thirty seconds out to do an easy breathing exercise: Box breathing.

This exercise is called “box breathing” because you can draw a square on the palm of your hand as you do it, which helps you visualize your breath and ground you.  

  1. Open your palm and place your index finger from your other hand at the bottom corner.
  2. Inhale deeply for four counts as you trace a straight line upwards from the bottom corner of your palm to the top.
  3. Hold your breath in for the count of four as you trace a straight line across the top of your palm with your index finger. 
  4. Exhale for the count of four as you trace a straight line down the edge of your palm toward your wrist with your index finger. 
  5. Hold your breath out for the count of four as you trace a straight line across the bottom of your palm with your index finger. 
  6. Repeat this cycle as many times as you need to. When you’re finished, take a beat to breathe normally with your eyes open or closed. 

If you find that the count of four doesn’t work for you, you can always change the duration of time that you inhale, hold, exhale, and hold. To increase the benefits, you might want to up the time to six, eight, or ten counts — feel free to make this practice your own. Some people don’t even like tracing the square on their hands, they prefer to draw a line in the air or simply imagine the box, and that’s a good practice, too.  

If you’re having a hard time visualizing box breaths — or just want a guided box breathing exercise to relax to — check out this video:

Jezmina Von Thiele (they/them) is a 200-hour Kripalu certified Yoga Instructor with a Trauma Center Trauma Sensitive Yoga Certificate. They are a dancer, healer, artist, art model, and tell fortunes in their mixed Roma/Sinti family’s tradition. Follow them on Instagram at @jezmina.vonthiele and visit for more.

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