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This breathing pattern is a stress-fighting triple-threat. The short breath holds in between each inhale and exhale can help prevent panic attacks. The slow breathing pace promotes deep, diaphragmatic breathing which helps activate the parasympathetic nervous system (rest-and-digest mode). Finally, the elongated exhale helps promote an optimal of oxygen and carbon dioxide for stress.
Slow, diaphragmatic (belly) breathing has been shown to stimulate the vagus nerve, which in turn activates our parasympathetic nervous system (rest-and-digest). When our body is in a sympathetic state (fight-or-flight), it can’t properly digest food or rest and recover. Using this pattern before bed or after meals can help promote healthy digestion, sleep, and muscle recovery.
Research shows that breathing rate increases greatly in the moments leading up to a panic attack.
Alicia Meuret (Ph.D.) found that by training individuals to slow down the breath and incorporate intermittent breath holds before or during panic attacks, they could be significantly diminished.
Chest breathing is an emergency response, triggering our body’s fight-or-flight mode. Conversely, breathing out of the belly (diaphragm) stimulates the vagus nerve & activates the body’s parasympathetic nervous system, our rest-and-digest mode. It’s also considerably more efficient than chest breathing. Place one hand on your chest while you breathe and one hand on your stomach for a simple reminder to breathe out of your belly.
Noses are for breathing, mouths are for eating. Nose breathing is up to 20% more efficient than mouth breathing and leads to cleaner, warmer air for your lungs. Mouth breathing, on the other hand, is associated with higher rates of snoring, sleep apnea, allergies, and illness.
These breaths should be slow, but not too deep. Inhaling too much oxygen can actually lead to acute hyperventilation and trigger panic attacks & anxiety. Focus on gently sipping air through the nose on each inhale.
This breathing pattern goes by quite a few different names: Counting Breath, Tactical Breath, Modified Box. According to clinical psychologist Belisa Vranich, whom spoke about this pattern in her TedX talk, this pattern originated from the US military. Considering it’s striking similarities to Box Breathing, this makes sense, as both techniques are easy and effective methods for decreasing stress that can be done practically anywhere.