Using Box Breathing to handle tilt / stress from Gaming

Gaming can be stressful. Things like clutch situations, extended team fights, ranked gameplay, toxic teammates make your heart race and your BREATHING breathe heavy. I’m sure you can think of even more! We have all been through these situations and it is not always easy to hit the reset button and de-stress. Fortunately, we can utilize breathing (and science) to help manage tilt so we can reset and excel in those stressful moments.

Box breathe is one of several techniques you can utilize to remain calm under stress.


What is it – Box Breathe for Gamers

Box breathe is a technique navy SEALs utilize to minimize stress, stay calm and retain self-awareness in challenging environments. You can perform this technique anywhere with no tools and without using your hands. This means it is perfectly suited for a boost in-game!

All it requires is bringing your focus to your breath and counting at a certain cadence to control and slow your breathing.

How does it work? Box Breathe for Gamers

Choking occurs from one of two mechanisms, distraction or self-focus.

Distraction is exactly what it sounds like, something externally or internally is taking your attention away from important details in-game. Self-focus is a little more complex. Think about your best flick or teamfight ever. I bet you didn’t think about every single movement of the mouse or keyboard. Those basic mechanics just happened and you could concentrate on the bigger picture of the engagement. Self-focus is when you are so caught up in those basic mechanics you regress back to when you were just learning and had to go through every step one at a time. (For the motor learning nerds out there we shift from the autonomous stage back to the cognitive stage). Either distractions or self-focus obviously slows you down and you can’t execute the way you should be able to.

Another way you can think about choking in gaming performance is the inability to manage your attention properly. You only have so much attention and if some of it is taken up by distractions or how to execute a skill then you have less to devote to the game. This translates into worsened performance. By bringing attention to your breathing you can filter out the distractions or self-focus to concentrate on the game. 


Think of it this way:

Slowing down your breathing makes your body work better in stressful moments. Intentional rhythmic breathing can help reduce the overall physiological strain and mental workload on your system (1) allowing you to flourish in demanding situations.


For those interested about the science and underlying physiology of why this works, here are a few ways slow deep breathe (4-10 breathe per min) positively impacts various systems of our body. (2,3)

1. Our Breathing System (respiratory system)shortness of breath

Deep slow breathing and use of the box breathing technique can increase the efficiency of our breathing, increase the volume of air filled in the lung during breathing and reduce chemoreflex sensitivity (3,4). This allows us to better handle conditions when we have less oxygen (prolonged sitting) shortness of breath

2. Circulation of Cardiovascular systemshortness of breath

More blood is pumped from the heart per minute (Improved cardiac output) which can improve blood oxygenation to the rest of our body shortness of breath. This can lead to general benefits with motor and cognitive function. Additionally this can increase HRV and can decrease our blood pressure.

Both the heart and lung work together as the cardiorespiratory unit and slow breathing techniques such as box breathing can synchronize our breathing with our heartbeat (respiratory sinus arrhythmia ). This synchrony can provide physiologic benefits (improving reflex efficacy, gas exchange efficiency, minimizes energy expenditure, etc.) and some research correlates it to emotion regulation capacity. (5,6) Basically, working on slow breathing can also increase our ability to regulate how we feel. For example, that overwhelmed or anxious feeling when you are in a clutch or lose situation shortness of breath.

3. Stress System Response (Autonomic Nervous System)

Slow breathing has been shown to augment the “rest and relaxation” arm (parasympathetic nervous system) of our autonomic nervous system. It does this through optimal release and removal of  a neurotransmitter (acetylcholine) along with improving the response of a certain reflex in our bodies (baroreflex).shortness of breath The end result of this more reductionist description is slow breathing increases our capacity to react to physical and mental stress. (3)

Why might you use it – Box Breathe for Gamers

The answer is simple:

To take back control in a situation where you can only control yourself. You feel overwhelmed and need to regulate your emotions.You want develop your stress tolerance (coinciding with improved autonomic nervous system regulation and improved physiologic functioning).

How do you use it – Box Breathe for Gamers

Gamers can use BOX breathing in two ways: Stress Tolerance Training or a De-Stress Tool. Check out the link above for a continuous stream of box breathe. All you have to do is follow along (visual cuing has been shown to help with the physiologic benefits). In the video, you will see a square with a moving dot. Each side of the square corresponds with a 4-second interval. Then, follow the instructions inside the square for that 4-second interval. Repeat the 4 step cycle as long as you like. We recommend at least 1 song or about 3-5 minutes to achieve an effect.



Join the stream or watch the VOD (link) and improve your autonomic nervous system function by performing the exercise at LEAST 10 minutes a day. Build this number up to develop more of a benefit. Check back in with 1HP for more breathing protocols and strategies.


If you feel stressed from a rank session or scrim block , check into the stream and perform at least 5 minutes or until you feel more calm and centered.


1 Russo, Marc A., et al. “The Physiological Effects of Slow Breathing in the Healthy Human.” Breathe, vol. 13, no. 4, 30 Nov. 2017, pp. 298–309, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5709795/, 10.1183/20734735.009817.

Carter, Kirtigandha Salwe, and Robert Carter III. “Breath-Based Meditation: A Mechanism to Restore the Physiological and Cognitive Reserves for Optimal Human Performance.” World Journal of Clinical Cases, vol. 4, no. 4, 2016, p. 99, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4832119/, 10.12998/wjcc.v4.i4.99. Accessed 8 Jan. 2020.

Zaccaro, Andrea, et al. “How Breath-Control Can Change Your Life: A Systematic Review on Psycho-Physiological Correlates of Slow Breathing.” Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, vol. 12, 7 Sept. 2018, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6137615/, 10.3389/fnhum.2018.00353. Accessed 22 Oct. 2019.

Bernardi, Luciano, et al. “Slow Breathing Reduces Chemoreflex Response to Hypoxia and Hypercapnia, and Increases Baroreflex Sensitivity.” Journal of Hypertension, vol. 19, no. 12, Dec. 2001, pp. 2221–2229, 10.1097/00004872-200112000-00016.

Butler, Emily A., et al. “Respiratory Sinus Arrhythmia, Emotion, and Emotion Regulation during Social Interaction.” Psychophysiology, vol. 43, no. 6, Nov. 2006, pp. 612–622, 10.1111/j.1469-8986.2006.00467.x. Accessed 24 May 2019.6818/

Lane, Richard D., et al. “Neural Correlates of Heart Rate Variability during Emotion.” NeuroImage, vol. 44, no. 1, 1 Jan. 2009, pp. 213–222, pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/18778779/, 10.1016/j.neuroimage.2008.07.056. Accessed 4 May 2021.



Questions, comments, thoughts? let us know below!

No Comments

Post A Comment