Just Breathe… A practice to steady yourself during anxious or stressful times

A wise person once said, life is 50-50, meaning that life is 50% positive and 50% negative.  I agree with this idea, however, believe in a more optimistic ratio of 51-49.  51% positive and 49% negative!

If we can accept that life is 51% positive experiences 49% negative experiences, then there should be no surprise that we are going to encounter everything from anxiety and sadness to anger and loss.  Because of this fact, it might be helpful to have tools to calm down and steady ourselves during turbulent times.

4-7-8 breathing is a simple but powerful practice that reduces stress and anxiety and restores peace of body and mind.

When anxious or stressed, calm breathing is an ideal tool to use because we tend to over-breathe, taking rapid, shallow breaths, which sometimes leads to hyperventilation.

Over-breathing can then exacerbate anxiety and stress and create additional cognitive and physical symptoms such as racing thoughts, light-headedness, and tightness in the chest, just to name a few.

4-7-8 breathing corrects over-breathing and calms the nervous system down helping you to feel steady and more serene.

How to Practice 4-7-8 Breathing

4-7-8 breathing involves taking slow, smooth, and steady breaths.  The best posture to have is to sit up-right, which gives your lungs the greatest capacity to fill with air.  For the practice, you will want to place your tongue on the roof of your mouth and hold it in place for the duration of the practice.

Here are the steps:

  1. First, through your mouth, exhale any air from your belly making a whooshing sound.

  2. Next, close your lips, and take a slow, steady breath in through your nose, while you count to 4 in your head.  Be sure to breath all the way into your lower belly, rather than from your chest.  A good way to ensure that you are breathing properly is to place your hand on your lower belly, and as you inhale, your belly should expand, and your hand should move in an outward direction.

  3. Hold your breath for a count of 7 seconds.

  4. Finally, slowly exhale through your mouth for 8 seconds, once again making a whooshing sound.

This completes a full breath cycle.  You will want to practice for a total of four breath cycles.

It is comforting to know that just your breath alone can calm the body, clear the mind, and uplift the spirit.  While we can enjoy the 51% of life that is positive and carefree, during the 49% that is difficult, breath can be like a buoy in the storm that rights itself and maintains a steady presence in any condition until fairer winds come our way.

To be guided in this practice, watch the brief video below!