There will be times, such as when you are stuck in heavy traffic, when stress will take a toll on you, making you feel agitated and anxious. During these times, you need an immediate and effective method to cool off. This simple three-minute breathing exercise can help you calm down and get rid of stress, preventing you from freaking out and making bad decisions.
Sometimes referred to as box-breathing, this breathing technique is used by Navy Seals, first responders, and people who are constantly facing massive amounts of stress. It has a direct, apparent, and positive effect on the functioning of the nervous system. And the best thing about it? No one will even notice that you are doing it.
In this breathing exercise, you simply inhale to the count of four using your diaphragm, then exhale to a slow count of four. It is important that you expand your lungs completely and fill them as much as you can.
Avoid shrugging your shoulders to your ears to avoid doing a "stress breath," which is a shallow breath normally done when you are agitated or depressed. In addition to the lungs, the stomach should also expand because the diaphragm is moving down into the belly to enable the lungs to expand more completely. As soon as you can do this, you will have to change the ratio, starting with a 4:8 inhale to exhale ratio. Then, you can move to 8:16, 10:20, 22:44, or 30:80, and so on.
Breathing deeply and correctly for a few minutes can do wonders for how the body and brain respond to stress:
Deep breathing causes the vagus nerve, which runs from the neck down to the diaphragm, to send a message to the brain to stimulate the parasympathetic nervous system and shut down the sympathetic nervous system – the part of the nervous system responsible for rest, relaxation, peace, and digestion.
When facing danger or any perceived threat, the body will instinctively either run or fight – also known as the body's fight-or-flight response. Box-breathing prevents the adrenal-dump and the fight-or-flight response.
The brain can freely make smart choices based on relaxed concentration, a brainwave state referred to as Alpha.
Alpha waves brought about by a deep-breathing pattern creates a positive feedback loop that brings back harmony between the mind and body.
This brainwave state is also an indication of the "eureka" moments of a compelling new idea. This enables you to create something out of nothing, especially when you are facing a challenging or stressful situation.
More techniques to deal with stress on the spot
Stress can occur anywhere – at work, at home, and even on the road. You may need different stress-relieving techniques for different stressful situations. Try these emergency stress-relieving techniques that can help you stop stress at any moment:
Count from one to 10 before you speak or react.
Go for a walk. Even walking to the restroom and back can help cut off the tension and give you a chance to think thoroughly.
Try to meditate or pray to get some new perspective.
If the situation does not require immediate attention, such as social media trolls or stressful emails, sleep on it and respond the next day.
Walk away from the situation for a while and handle it as soon as things have calmed down.
Break down big problems into smaller parts, rather than tackle everything at once.
Listen to some chill or relaxing music or an inspirational podcast when dealing with road rage.