A 60-Second Breathing Technique to Calm Way, Way Down

A simple breathing technique that helped me become a better leader.

Jason R. Waller
Mind Cafe
Published in
5 min readApr 22, 2020


Photo by Eli DeFaria on Unsplash

There’s a beautifully simple, yet powerful breathing technique I want to talk about called the 4x4 breath. Chances are you’ve come across it. There are a lot of names for the same thing. Box breathing, square breathing, four-count breathing, tactical breathing, four-kata breath. The Navy SEALs get a lot of credit for developing this, but as ex-Army I’ll never admit it.

How did one breathing technique get so much attention? I mean, I breathe every day, what’s the fuss?

Well, even though I’ve known about the technique for a while, I didn’t really start regularly practicing it until recently. And let me tell you, it works. It’s made me a better leader, a better partner, and a better parent, all because it really helps me calm down when I’m worked up.

How to 4x4

Pause and find a quiet spot. Put on headphones if you need calm background noise. Notice how you feel, notice where you feel your anxiety and stress. Close your eyes.

  1. Take one breath in, slowly through the nose, taking a full four seconds to inhale. Try to breathe into the belly, not the chest
  2. Hold at the top of the breath for four seconds. Count in the mind and hold.
  3. Slowly exhale through the mouth, slowly over four seconds. Empty the lungs.
  4. Hold as the bottom of the breath for four seconds.
Image by Jason R. Waller

Repeat this process slowly, deliberately, concentrating on your breath and on the rhythmic counting. After repeating the 4x4 breath (four stages of four seconds each) four times you’ll have done just over a minute of breathing.

How do you feel now? What do you notice about the anxiety or stress you felt earlier?

The reason this technique is so powerful is that it’s so simple. Breathing is usually an unconscious process, but by making it conscious we can more deliberately control our physiology. By focusing on counting, we also…



Jason R. Waller
Mind Cafe

Executive coach to CEOs and leaders. Partner at evolution.team. Speaker, combat veteran, ex-consultant. Top writer in Leadership. www.jasonrwaller.com