Breathing for energy and focus

Updated: Apr 8, 2021

Case Study:

Lisa, 41, is a senior sales executive working in a high stake technology and consulting services company. She often finds herself in high pressure situations due to the nature of work and the sector she works in. When walking into these high-pressure situations, Lisa needs to stay in control both physically and mentally to prevent getting frazzled.

Though she is highly trained in sales strategy and tactics, and she is brilliant in handling complex technical questions, when faced with high pressure situations over and over again, she finds herself in a bit of a low energy and low motivation state. Also, Lisa noticed that her confidence level tends to diminish as a result.


What can Lisa do to regain immediate mental and physical control and uplift her energy levels during and/ or after a high pressure meeting?


Solution


Learning to control the breath is one of the most powerful (and free!) neurohacks we have for improving concentration, managing stress, developing optimal health, and uplifting our energy levels.


Deep and rhythmic breathing helps us calm our thoughts, slow our heart rate, and regulate our autonomic nervous system. When we are working on something that requires our full and undivided attention, focused breathing helps us direct what our mind is paying attention to and focus on that thing without any distractions. When a high-pressure situation arises, it helps us control the physical and mental response to stress, preventing us from getting frazzled and/ or frozen.


The following breathing technique called Box Breathing is recommended by many high performance coaches and military personnel - including the Navy SEALs.


So, what is Box Breathing? Box breathing, also known as square breathing, is a technique used when taking slow, deep breaths in a box pattern.


Let’s dive in. Following is a beginners box breathing technique we can all practice when we know we have to face a challenging/ high pressure situation (no matter what the situation is).


Step 1: Slowly exhale

Sitting upright (or standing up with your spine held straight), slowly exhale through your mouth, getting all the oxygen out of your lungs. Focus on this intention and be conscious of what you’re doing.


Step 2: Slowly inhale

Inhale slowly and deeply through your nose to the count of four. In this step, count to four very slowly in your head. Feel the air fill your lungs, one section at a time, until your lungs are completely full and the air moves into your abdomen.


Step 3: Hold your breath

Hold your breath for another slow count of four.


Step 4: Exhale again

Exhale through your mouth for the same slow count of four, expelling the air from your lungs and abdomen. Be conscious of the feeling of the air leaving your lungs.


Step 5: Hold your breath again

Hold your breath for the same slow count of four before repeating this process.


Just repeat this for 3 - 5 minutes. You will feel an immediate calmness and mental alertness afterwards.


Check out the following video by former Navy SEAL commander, Mark Divine, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UJnJ4xTkEOY for a great demo of how this technique can be performed.


Outcome:

Lisa started practicing the above box breathing technique whenever she had an inkling of a potential stressful situation. She noticed that she is able to regain her energy and focus levels much more rapidly using this basic technique.


Lisa is now exploring how this technique can be taken to the next level, so it can be used in an inconspicuous manner even during a high pressure meeting/ stressful conversation.



Credit: Mark Divine


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