Manage Stress and Increase Focus with This Powerful Tool

This article will introduce yet another useful tool to manage the stress of trading the volatile assets that are cryptocurrencies. In previous articles, I've written about Resilience, Mental Toughness, and Planning, but even with those we all encounter stress and anxiety as well as a need for increased focus at one time or another. Fortunately there is a powerful tool that does just that!

There is something everyone has with them at all times that is perfect for managing stress and increasing focus. I’m talking about the breath! Many people don’t think much about their breathing and just assume that it is something that happens on its own. While it is true that normally we won’t stop breathing completely if we’re not paying attention, breathing is an incredibly powerful tool when used intentionally. There are a wide variety of breath practices, but this article will focus primarily on what is referred to as Box Breathing.

Before getting into the specifics of Box Breathing, there are some important general points to mention about breathing for maximum benefit. As much as possible we should be using deep diaphragmatic breaths. The diaphragm is a muscle separating the organs in the abdomen from the chest, and when it is contracted and flattened it creates a vacuum drawing air into the lungs, pushing out the belly. Breathing this way uses our full capacity filling the lungs from the bottom up and expanding the rib cage in all directions. It is also beneficial to maintain good posture keeping the spine upright and aligned as if hanging from a thread attached to the top of the head. Just focusing on taking full deep breaths in this way has health benefits by itself.

Now that we are using our full lung capacity with deep, diaphragmatic breaths, we can continue to focus by counting in our heads how long we inhale and exhale. Try to keep the inhale and exhale steady and even. For example, if you count to five inhaling, exhale slowly to the same count of five. Breathing in this manner has multiple physical and mental benefits and is a foundation we will build on to create the more advanced practice of Box Breathing.

In addition to the extended inhale and exhale we will introduce a breath hold for the same count after the inhale and after the exhale forming the other two sides of the “box”. For example, breathing in for a count of five hold the breath with full lungs for another count of five. Then exhale to a five count and hold the breath with empty lungs for another count of five before beginning again with the inhale. If the count is too long, try starting with a three or four count. There is no benefit to making the breaths or holds longer than is comfortable. With practice, however, you will find that the time will naturally extend and become easier.

While there isn’t very much scientific research on box breathing at this point, there is a wealth of anecdotal evidence describing a host of benefits. This is likely because of this breathing technique’s influence on the Vagus nerve and parasympathetic nervous system. Whatever the exact mechanism is, box breathing will lead you to a state of relaxed awareness where you will be better able to manage stress, focus on decision making, and keep an objective perspective in stressful situations.

One of the things I love about box breathing besides all the benefits is how versatile and accessible it is. Wherever you go, you have your breath with you, and with just a little concentration and effort it becomes a powerful tool to transform your life and consciousness. When getting started you will probably want to be in a calm and peaceful environment while learning this new breathing pattern. However, once you have the hang of it you can box breath while reading, watching videos, in the shower, or even driving (just be safe and focus on the road!). Give it a try and tell me in the comments what your experience is like!

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