Living With Generalized Anxiety Disorder: The Box Breathing vs 4-7-8

Published February 15th, 2024 by A Better Way Healthcare Services, LLC GA

If you're one of the nearly seven million Americans living with Generalized Anxiety Disorder, it's important to know what to do when stress and panic strike.

Anxiety manifests differently for everyone. Most people experience symptoms of nervousness, unease, and uncontrollable thoughts. Other people have more intense symptoms, including aches and pains, an inability to focus, a rapid heartbeat, sweating, and irritability.

When you're in the throes of an anxiety attic, breathing techniques are a helpful way to relax. Today, we'll discuss box breathing vs. 4-7-8 breathing.

Both of these popular breathing techniques are shown to help reduce anxiety symptoms and restore calm. Keep reading, learn how and when to do them, and figure out which is best for your anxiety.

Box Breathing, Explained

The box or square breathing technique is a simple yet effective way to slow down your breathing. During an anxiety attack, it's common to feel like you're losing your breath, which exacerbates feelings of panic even more.

To stop it, you need to distract your mind, gain control over your body, and calm the nervous system. Box breathing does just that, returning your breathing to a regular rhythm and restoring your mind to a restful state.

When you're ready, breathe in slowly and count to 4, paying close attention to the feeling of the air entering your lungs. Hold your breath for another 4-count, then slowly exhale for another 4-count. Repeat this process for as long as is necessary to feel calm.

You don't have to be hyperventilating to benefit from box breathing. It's shown to help with sleep, lower blood pressure, and decrease the stress hormone, cortisol.

The 4-7-8 Breathing Method

Breathing techniques originate in ancient forms of Pranayama yoga and the 4-7-8 breathing method is no different. It was developed by Dr. Andrew Weil for people who suffer from anxiety, stress, and insomnia. 

In the end, it's a very similar practice to the box method, but with a longer held and out-breath. You start by opening your mouth slightly and pushing out any air you're holding in your lungs.

You then close your mouth and inhale for a count of 4 through your nose. Hold this breath in for a 7-count, then open your mouth again and slowly let the air out for a count of 8. Again, repeat the stages as needed, and, if you can't do a full 8-count, start with a 4-count and work your way up.

Box Breathing vs. 4-7-8

The box breathing vs. 4-7-8 debate comes down to what works for you. Many people report that box breathing is more helpful for centering the nervous system in panic situations, while 4-7-8 helps you engage in relaxation and mindfulness. 

Although helpful in dealing with the trickiest situations, breathwork won't cure your generalized anxiety disorder. If you're finding your anxiety symptoms difficult to overcome, you need to see professional mental health services from an accredited healthcare provider in Louisiana and Georgia.

Contact A Better Way Healthcare Services to speak with our multidisciplinary team about your GAD and get a better handle on your symptoms.

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