Box Breathing: a Simple Biohack to Quickly Reduce Stress and Anxiety

Ever found yourself in a stressful situation where you needed to relax to perform at your best? If so, next time you catch yourself feeling overly stressed try Box Breathing! Using this biohack is a quick way to calm nerves and regulate your nervous system.

What is Box Breathing?

Box Breathing is a 4 part breathing technique and an easy biohack to reset your breathing rhythm, reduce stress, and relieve anxiety. This reset can allow us to consciously exit out of the fight-or-flight mode. The state we fall automatically into when our sympathetic portion of our autonomic nervous system is triggered by stressful situations.

This breathing exercise was popularized most notably by the NAVY Seals as a way to stay focused and calm in high-stress, tense situations. If it works for them, it can work for me and you too!

Box Breathing Exercise
An illustrated tutorial of the box breathing exercise


Box Breathing steps:

It’s an incredibly simple exercise. Broken into 4 parts as follows:

Step 1: Inhale deeply for 4 seconds through the nose

Step 2: Hold for 4 seconds

Step 3: Exhale fully for 4 seconds out the mouth

Step 4: Hold for 4 seconds

These steps should be repeated as needed to get stress back under control. Typically my box breathing exercises last about 5 minutes, but there is no limit to how long or short to perform the practice. You’ll probably begin to notice the calming effects of Box Breathing after about 6 rounds. Which according to some quick math (4x4x6) is only 96 seconds!

Why is Box Breathing effective at reducing stress?

One of the main components of this breathing technique’s effectiveness is the slow holding of breaths. When we hold our breath it allows CO2 to build up in our bloodstream. This increase in CO2 produces an increased cardioinhibitory response to the vagus nerve as you exhale. Which in turn stimulates the parasympathetic side of the autonomic nervous system. This then produces a calming and relaxing effect in both the body and mind. In addition, intentional focus on the breath promotes mindfulness which also has been proven to reduce stress.

To increase this calming effect you can extend your inhale breath-hold and exhale beyond 4 seconds if you’re comfortable with doing so. The only caveat to that is the cool square graphic no longer makes sense. You can also experiment with lengthening all sections of the practice to see what works best for you.

Want to try Box Breathing?

 One of my favorite guided Box Breathing exercises on YouTube is about 6 minutes. You can check it out here:

Note: This channel Take A Deep Breath has a bunch of other great guided breathing exercises and tutorials. I highly recommend that you check them out!


I truly hope you found this stress reduction technique helpful. I know that in my own experience, my work environment can get quite stressful at times. Chronic stress can weaken the immune system and exacerbate other health conditions. So taking action to prevent it is important! This breathing technique has been a go-to biohacking practice for me before any kind of big presentation or interview in order to calm my nerves. It really works!

I look forward to writing a lot more content about breathing and breathwork practices. There are a lot more cool breathing biohacks to share!  Some of these practices can have profound effects on consciousness, transcending both mind and body and touching upon the spiritual, which I find super fascinating. If you are interested in learning more about breathing and breathwork, before I get to those posts, I highly recommend you check out the book Breath by James Nestor:



Breath by James Nestor
Amazon: Breath – The New Science of a Lost Art


External Sources:

Breath: The New Science of a Lost Art by James Nestor ISBN-10 : 0735213615

Have you tried Box Breathing before? Or have you just tried it for the first time? Let me know what your experience has been with it in the comment section below!

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