Hari Patience-Davies shares some easy breathing techniques for dealing with public speaking anxiety.

No matter how often I speak publicly I still get nervous before hand. I’ve found however that planning a few minutes of deep breathing into my prep time really helps me calm my nerves. Here are two easy to use breathing techniques I often recommend.

I was introduced to five by five breathing during a short Cognitive Behavioural Therapy course I took. It’s about the simplest breathing exercise I’ve ever come across and every time I’m teaching I always try to find a minute for a quick session.

Five by five breathing works like this:

Step 1: Breathe in slowly to the count of five.

Step 2: Hold your breath for five seconds

Step 3: Breathe out slowly to the count of five.

Repeat this at least three times.

Five by five breathing works for me because it’s so simple. It’s quick – just 45 seconds for the shortest version – and it works. I wear an Apple watch which tracks my heart rate and I have seen the reduction that 45 seconds of five by five breathing can make to my heart rate.

It’s my personal favourite.

But it’s not the only easy breathing technique.

Box breathing is a technique apparently favoured by the American special forces, the Navy SEALs. Like five by five breathing it involves counting  Рthis time up to four, four times.

Box breathing can also include a bit of visualisation, if you find that helpful. It works like this:

Step 1: Imagine a square shape. Breathe in slowly for a count of 4 and imagine a dot moving up the left side of the square.

Step 2: Hold your breath for 4 seconds. The dot moves along the top of the square from left to right.

Step 3: Breathe out for 4 seconds. The dot moves down the right side of the square to the bottom right corner.

Step 4: Hold you breath for 4 seconds. The dot moves along the bottom of the square from right to left.

Step 5: Repeat.

There isn’t a recommended minimum number of repeats for box breathing, but you should feel yourself calming after a few minutes.

There are lots of different breathing techniques out there that can calm our nerves or relieve our anxiety – it’s worth trying a few of them out to find the one that best works for you. Some people will favour five by five breathing, while others prefer the box breathing approach. Other people might find a mindfulness or meditation app works best for them.

It doesn’t really matter which one you use, so choose an approach that works for you.


Photo by Tim Goedhart on Unsplash

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