How To Calm Yourself In 5mins With Breathing Exercises

Apr 14, 2023 | Career Planning, Mental Health

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How To Calm Yourself In 5mins With Breathing Exercises

What do you usually do when you’re feeling annoyed or overwhelmed at work? Do you say something passive-aggressive to a colleague or beeline to your fridge for a snack? Some of us will have healthy and less healthy ways to bring ourselves back to a baseline state of being, and some people become chronically annoyed.

If you’re frustrated or feeling anxious, box breathing is a quick and scientifically proven way to practise calming your nervous system. Whether you’re sitting at your desk after a meeting or trying to fall asleep, here are a few simple steps to self-soothe in 5 minutes:


  1. Sit up straight, feel your feet on the ground and close your eyes. Start to notice your breath as it is. Don’t try to change it, just notice what you notice
  2. Take 3 deep slow breaths
  3. Inhale through the nose for a count of 4
  4. Hold your breath for a count of 4
  5. Exhale through your mouth for 8 counts
  6. Hold for 4 counts
  7. Inhale for 4 counts and repeat 4 times

The act of inhaling activates your sympathetic nervous system (the drive “go, go, go” state), whereas exhaling activates your parasympathetic nervous system (rest & digest state) which is why we want to draw out the breath when we breathe out. Eventually after 4 or 5 repetitions of this box breathing process, our nervous system learns that “everything is okay” and your body will follow the lead in feeling more grounded and calm.


By Laura Cohen, a Career Counsellor at Canada Career Counselling Halifax location. Laura has completed an MA in Counselling Psychology from McGill University. She is experienced working with clients in numerous industries including finance, the military, business and education, the non-profit and arts sector, IT and healthcare. Email our office at [email protected] to schedule a 15-minute complimentary consultation. You may be able to use your insurance plan or extended health benefits to cover counselling and assessment fees.