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Examples of different breathing techniques to help manage anxiety and stress.

Why Breathing Techniques?

  1. Relaxation Response:
    Deep breathing exercises can trigger the body’s relaxation response, activating the parasympathetic nervous system.  
    This helps counteract the body’s stress response, reducing anxiety, and promoting a sense of calm.
  2. Stress Reduction:
    By engaging in controlled breathing, individuals can lower their stress levels, which may help alleviate these symptoms.
    Stress can exacerbate symptoms associated with TBI, such as headaches, irritability, and difficulty concentrating.
  3. Oxygenation and Circulation:
    Focused breathing techniques promote better oxygenation and circulation throughout the body, including the brain.
    This can enhance cognitive function and support overall brain health, potentially aiding in TBI recovery.
  4. Emotional Regulations:
    Breathing exercises can help regulate emotions by providing a grounding practice, allowing individuals to regain control over their feelings.
    TBI survivors may experience emotional challenges, including mood swings and increased sensitivity.
  5. Improved Focus and Clarity:
    By practicing mindful breathing, TBI survivors can enhance their ability to focus and maintain mental clarity.
    This can be particularly beneficial when coping with cognitive impairments that often accompany brain injuries.

Examples of Breathing Techniques

Remember, while these breathing techniques can be beneficial for managing anxiety and stress, it may not work the same way for everyone. It’s always good to explore different techniques and find one that works for you!

Box Breathing

  1. Find a comfortable seated position and relax your body.
  2. Close your eyes or soften your gaze.
  3. Take a slow, deep breath in through your nose for a count of four.  Imagine filling your lungs fully with air.
  4. Hold your breath for a count of four.  Maintain a comfortable pause without straining.
  5. Slowly exhale through your mouth for a count of four, letting go of all the air.
  6. Hold your breath again for a count of four.
  7. Repeat the process by inhaling through your nose for a count of four.
  8. Continue this pattern of inhaling, holding, exhaling, and holding for a total of four cycles or more.


  1. Find somewhere comfortable to sit.  If you can, close your eyes
  2. Breathe in through your nose to the count of four.
  3. Hold the breath to the count of seven.
  4. Exhale through your mouth to the count of eight.

Progressive Muscle Relaxation

  1. Start by tensing and relaxing the muscles in your toes and progressively work your way up to your neck and head.  
  2. Tense your muscles for about five seconds and then relax for 30 seconds, and repeat.

The Humming Breath

  1. This can be done standing or sitting.
  2. Breathe in through the nose for at least five seconds.
  3. With your mouth closed, hum as if you’re saying “hmmmmm” until you’re out of breath.
  4. Repeat 5 to 7 times.

Take 5

  1. Five finger breathing requires the use of two hands.  One hand will be your base (this hand won’t move) and the other will be used to trace your fingers (this one will move).  It doesn’t matter which is which, but you may find it easiest to use your dominant hand for tracing.
  2. Hold your base hand in front of you with your fingers spread comfortably apart.
  3. Place the index finger of your tracing hand at the bottom of the thumb of your base hand – right where your thumb meets your wrist – and begin slowly moving your index finger up to the tip of your thumb.
  4. As you move your finger up your thumb, take a slow breath in.
  5. When you reach the top of your thumb, do the opposite: slowly drag your index finger down the other side of your thumb while exhaling.
  6. When you’re done tracing your thumb, move on to tracking your index finger in the same way – then your middle finger, ring finger, and pinky finger
  7. As you trace each one, continue to breathe deeply and slowly.  Let yourself relax as you breath.
  8. When you’ve traced your whole hand and reached the bottom of your pinky finger, reverse directions and go back the way you came, moving toward your thumb.
Amy Roberts

Amy Roberts


Amy Roberts is a dedicated individual with a diverse background in healthcare and education. As a former Recreational Therapist, she has helped individuals of all abilities discover the joy of leisure activities as a means of promoting well-being. Her experience as a Special Education Teacher has equipped her with valuable skills in creating inclusive learning environments and supporting students with diverse needs. Amy has also served as a trainer, sharing her expertise and knowledge with others in the field. In addition, she has been a devoted caregiver for her spouse who suffered a traumatic brain injury (TBI), supporting and navigating the challenges that come with such a role. Amy’s unwavering commitment to improving the lives of others serves as an inspiration to all those who have the privilege of crossing paths with her.

The Brain Injury Association of Tennessee (BIAT) is an awareness and advocacy organization dedicated to improving the lives of TBI survivors and their caregivers.

BIAT does not provide medical diagnoses, treatments, or advice. All medical treatments should be discussed with your provider.