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Just Breathe: Making the Least Helpful Advice (Ok, Maybe it’s Sleep When They Sleep) Work

The Cram it all in Years (CIAIY) mean stress, too much on your plate, too many to-dos. We’ve been told that breathing reduces stress (remember labor?), enables focus, helps you get in the zone. But, it can piss us off to hear ‘just breathe’ when we’re in the eye of the storm.


When things get stressful, we slip into what psychologists call “maladaptive breathing” when our breath can get short and shallow. That can increase the stress or anxiety we’re experiencing. Counter with a SWAT-inspired breathing technique to puncture the pressure. ER professionals use it; Navy Seals too. Who are we to argue? 

What To Do (Bites)

  1. Think of your breaths as having 4 parts – like 4 sides of a square

    • Breathe in slowly through your nose for a count of four
    • Hold your breath deep in your abdomen for a count of four
    • Exhale slowly through your mouth for a count of four
    • Be sure to empty your lungs of air
  2. Repeat, and then again

    Do this 3-5 times.

  3. Get out of the vicious cycle

    When we’re stressed, we default to short and shallow breaths. These little breaths actually dial up the stress, since our brains go into reptilian “fight or flight” mode. By focusing on the 1-2-3-4 count, you’re forcing a mental siesta.


  1. Any time; anywhere: The beauty of tactical breathing is that it’s a mini pause button that you can bust out in any situation where you feel your stress barometer creeping up.

  2. Pre and post stress: Use tactical breathing when you are entering a stressful situation, to prepare. Use it when you come out on the other side of one, to recalibrate.

  3. Nature’s sleep aid: Tactical breathing is also a super-effective way to turn your thoughts off when it’s time to turn the covers down.

Hope you found this helpful! Got a topic you’d like some wisdom on? Let us know.


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