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Square breathing takes us to a whole new place

Square breathing takes us to a whole new place Square breathing takes us to a whole new place
Sandra Schiele, Counsel House

We have re-opened our doors this seventh week, offering both face-to-face and tele-health appointments at Counsel House (owned by Terry Lawton) in Corydon, where I practice as a licensed behavioral health specialist.

During the last two weeks, we have discussed how an activating event triggers faulty thinking leading to anger and unhealthy reactions. We talked about keeping an ABCDEF journal in order to dispute these unhealthy thoughts, thus decreasing anger and increasing healthier responses.

We then covered the four D’s: DELAY your initial reaction, DISTRACT yourself with something positive, DECIDE on an appropriate response, then DO it.

Today, we will add another tool to our anger management tool box.

We call this square breathing. Whenever you use the 4-D process and are executing the second D (distract yourself), this is when this new tool is applied.

Close your eyes — well, not until you’re done reading — and imagine a square. Imagine four equal sides. Imagine each side the length of two inches. As your eyes trace the base of the square, count to two. Trace upward and count to two. As you scroll across the top of the square, count to two. And, as your eyes trace the final side, thus completing the square image, count to two.

Continue tracing your square three more times. Now, breathe in through your nose for a count of two as you follow the bottom line from left to right (or right to left). As your eyes look upward and you’re counting to two again, hold this breath. Now, for a count of two, release your breath through your mouth as your eyes follow the upward line across. Finally, as your eyes complete the final side downward, pause your breath for two before repeating.

Congratulations! You have added square breathing to your list of healthy coping skills. Now, let’s add one more step. Continue imagining the four sides of your square, counting to two on each side, breathing in through your nose, holding for two, breathing out through your mouth and pausing before repeating. This time, I want you to tighten your fingers when you inhale and release them when you exhale. Do the same with your hands, forearms, upper arms, shoulders, neck and so forth until you have implemented this tightening and releasing of all muscle groups from head to toe.

The rationale behind this exercise is for you to focus on something other than that which is angering you. By focusing on an image, counting to two, regulating your breathing and relaxing your muscles, you’ve reset your physiology. This takes just a few minutes and can really take your mind to a whole new place, a healthier one.

Next time, I will cover another anger management strategy. Until then, stay safe, stay positive; we will get through this together.

If we can be of assistance to you or a loved one, contact us at 812-738-3277 or via email at [email protected]. For 24/7 crisis and information services, you can also call Louisville’s Hope Now Hotline at 1-800-221-0446.