Coping skills

Squared Breathing 

Photo by Kelvin Valerio on

Katie Donahoo

Breathing techniques are some of my favorite strategies to teach in sessions. They are so helpful and useful in a variety of situations. Breathing strategies are great because you can use them both in the moment to manage overwhelm and on a regular basis to help decrease stress and anxiety as part of your self care routine. Squared breathing can be used during morning meditations, to relax in the evening before heading to bed, or throughout the day to manage minor stressors. 

Bring your attention to your natural state of breathing. Notice the rise and fall of your chest as you breathing in and out. When we become anxious, stress, nervous, or worried our breath tends to stay in our chest and our rate of breathing increases. This leads to shallow, short breaths that increase your heart rate and blood pressure. Our goal is to interrupt this process. Therefore, it is important that you breath deep into your belly by utilizing your diaphragm. Imagine breathing in through your nose and the air going down your throat and filling you stomach like a balloon. Notice how your belly expands on the inhale rather than your chest. When exhaling be sure to blow out forcefully enough that you can hear your breath escape your lips. Squeeze your stomach muscles to get every last bit of air out that you can before holding the exhale. 

In squared breathing you will inhale, hold, exhale, and hold while counting to 4 and then begin again. It helps to imagine breathing in as if you are smelling flowers and blowing out as if you are blowing out the light of a candle.  See the diagram below for a visual aid.

Practicing breathing strategies, even when you are not stressed, can help prevent overwhelm and increase the likelihood you will be able to implement the strategy when needed. Take a few moments every day to practice deep breathing in the squared breathing format.