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Box Breathing to Remain Calm

A pager alert is designed to cut through the noise and get your attention. This is necessary as are our phones, social media, Slack, and so many other things are constantly fighting for our attention. But when we get paged, we have a physiological reaction of fight or flight. It shocks our bodies.

The most important building block of incident response is remaining calm and thinking clearly. It might sound silly, but you can actually gain some level of control over you mind and your body through breathing exercises. A very useful skill is the box breathing method.

Box breathing is an ancient meditation technique technique developed as part of the Ayurvedic, a natural system of medicine, from the Indian subcontinent. This practice was popularized in the west by the US military as a way to stay calm and focused during combat.

The exercise is very simple and you should practice it before you need it.

Let’s try this now.


  1. Slowlybreath in deeplyover a 4 second period

  2. Holdyour breath for 4 seconds

  3. Slowlyexhaleall of breath over a 4 second period

  4. Holdin this empty position for 4 seconds

  5. Repeat from step 1

Box breathing exercise

Don’t get too caught up on if it is exactly 4 seconds. Repeat this exercise 2 or 3 times. Once you are feeling ready to tackle the issue, go for it.

During a crisis, while you are not actively doing a task, you can return to focusing on box breathing for a few more cycles.

As a bonus, box breathing can be used outside of a crisis. Ideally you should focus on box breathing for 5 minutes to radically alter your state of mind and achieve a deep calm. I use if I am having trouble falling asleep.

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