One of those days? A simple breathing trick to snap you out of it

I never used to be an anxious person. But pregnancy and being a mum has brought it out of me.

I was anxious when I was pregnant: worried about this precious bundle that I couldn’t see and had little information about. I was incredibly anxious when he was first born. Was he ok? Why was he crying? Then, add in the totally irrational thoughts. What if there is a gas explosion? What if I die in my sleep? And suddenly I was in a constant state of worry.

It was an alien state of mind for me – it was exhausting and made me feel I was running in circles.


I wasn’t immediately sure how to calm down. My normal ways to de-stress were to do a really strong yoga practice, go for a run or share a bottle of wine. In those early newborn weeks none were an option. The only thing I could do easily was to use my breathing.

I’ve already written about my magic breathing trick, which really helps you calm down quickly.

Now I want to share another, which is really good at snapping you out of your current state of mind.

This technique resets your mind to neutral

It’s for those days when nothing seems to go your way: you’re already late, you spill cereal over the floor, you have to change a nappy, you can’t find your keys – those sorts of days.

This breathing technique works because it takes just enough concentration to distract you from the panicky or anxious way you are feeling. And it resets your mind to neutral.

To start you need to think about your breathing being made of 4 stages:

  1. breathing in
  2. the natural gap between finishing breathing in and starting to breathe out
  3. breathing out
  4. the natural gap between finishing breathing out and starting to breathe in

When you breathe normally the gaps between breathing in and out are so tiny you probably don’t notice them. But we are going to use them now.

If you are pregnant please don’t try this – it’s not recommended to hold your breath when pregnant.


To start, take a big breath in and count how many seconds it took. Everyone breathes at different rates but let’s say it was 3 seconds. Now hold your breath for 3 seconds before breathing out. Breathe out for 3 seconds then hold your breath for 3 seconds. Start the whole thing again:

  1. Breathe in (3 seconds)
  2. Hold your breath before breathing out (3 seconds)
  3. Breathe out (3 seconds)
  4. Hold your breath before breathing in (3 seconds)
  5. Repeat!

You don’t have to stick with 3 seconds for this – be guided by the natural length of your inhale. The important thing is each stage is done for the same number of seconds.

This technique is often called square breathing or box breathing – because the 4 stages of your breathing are equal.

You can do as many rounds as you like – I usually find 10 rounds is enough to regain a calm mind. I’d love to know whether you find it effective?

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