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Calm in Chaos: 3 Essential Breathing Methods for Overwhelmed Parents

Updated: Aug 28, 2023


Stressed man working on computer

By some miracle, the only panic attack I've ever experienced was the day we brought our son home from the hospital. The nurses were incredible and helped us survive the first few days.


But once we were on our own, the fear, stress, and anxiety skyrocketed. I felt like I was up shit's creek.


My saving grace that day, and so many days since then, was an easy-to-remember breathing technique that Navy Seals are trained to use.


Learning how to control your breathing is one of the best parenting hacks I have stumbled upon. It costs absolutely nothing and you don't need any apps or equipment for them. Take 1-3 minutes the next time you feel overwhelmed and try one.


Below are 3 simple, but effective breathing techniques I still use daily.


Box Breathing Method (4-4-4)

This technique got me through my panic attack and is simple and easy. Box breathing is used by Navy Seals to increase their focus in tense, high-stress situations. Box breathing helps to calm your nervous system and decrease stress in your body.


When and Why to Use:

Use box breathing when you are stressed (read: every day as a parent). When we are stressed and anxious, our breath gets shallow and faster. This creates even more anxiety.


Studies show that breathing techniques can lower cortisol (stress hormone) levels and blood pressure in your body. It activates your parasympathetic nervous system, which counteracts your 'fight or flight' response.


How to Use:

Imagine drawing a box in your mind, with each step being a side.

  1. Inhale for four counts through your nose

  2. Hold for four counts

  3. Exhale four counts through your mouth.

  4. Wait for four counts, repeat.


4-7-8 Breathing Method

This breathing pattern requires focus on long deep breaths. I use this technique primarily at bedtime, especially if I am tossing and turning. If your mind tends to run in circles at night, this is a great technique to try while you are laying in bed.


When and Why to Use:

The most common uses of the 4-7-8 technique are for reducing stress and anxiety or helping to fall asleep at night. Like box breathing, the technique aims to calm your nervous system.


How to Use:

  1. Inhale for four counts through your nose

  2. Hold for seven counts

  3. Exhale for eight seconds, repeat.

Conscious Breathing Anchor Method (3-6)

This technique is similar to the 4-7-8 method but doesn't require the breath hold. If your mind tends to wander, the anchor method can help rein in your thoughts as you imagine the anchor going up and down.


When and Why to Use:

This method is used to calm a racing mind and to regain focus. Similar to the 4-7-8 technique, the longer exhale helps slow down your heart rate and thoughts.


How to Use:

Imagine an anchor. Your inhale raises the anchor. Your exhale drops the anchor.

  1. Inhale for 3 counts, imagining the anchor lifting

  2. Exhale for 6 counts, imagining the anchor dropping

  3. Repeat.

Stress + Breathing Techniques = Calm Parents

Life is really hard. Thankfully, the human body is an amazing thing and these breathing techniques can help you navigate the challenges with a clear mind. Your kid watches everything you do and being a calm parent amidst chaos can be your new superpower.


I challenge you to try the Box Breathing technique the next time you are having a bad day. Take 60 seconds for yourself and go through the count a few times. You owe that to yourself. And your kids!


Have you tried these breathing techniques? Which one works best for you?



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