How Navy SEALs Relax Before Jumping Out of a Plane

Disclaimer: A name featured in this story has been changed to respect the individual’s privacy.

A good friend of mine, who I’ll call “Steve,” recently reached out to me the other day for some help.

After we spoke, I thought a few of my readers might also be able to benefit from what we discussed.

Not long ago, Steve was diagnosed with throat cancer—the same kind my dad was recently treated for.

Steve told me about his radiation therapy treatments and shared just how uncomfortable they have been for him. He has to wear a mesh mask over his face, and lay down on a table while his head and chest are encompassed by a machine that administers the radiation.

Man Receiving Radiotherapy Treatments for Cancer
SOURCE: iStock

As if that weren’t enough of a nerve-wracking ordeal on its own, laying in these confined spaces heightens Steve’s claustrophobia, often triggering panic attacks.

He’s been desperate for ways to lessen his anxiety—without pumping even more drugs into his system.

Steve had heard about my work and wanted to know if I could recommend any natural techniques to calm his nerves during these radiation sessions.

The breathing exercise approved by Special Ops

I told him about a powerful anxiety-diminishing technique I featured in my Sound Mind Protocol—an online learning tool I developed to help people unlock their brain’s peak abilities.

This technique is so powerful it’s actually used by Navy SEALs to help them keep their cool in extreme circumstances—like jumping out of an airplane into enemy territory.

As former Navy SEAL Mark Divine describes in his book Unbeatable Mind, special ops forces can’t rely on substances to “take the edge off” before a potentially dangerous mission. They can’t risk clouding their clarity, focus, or judgement…

It could cost them their life, the lives of those in their unit, or the lives of innocent civilians.

So they have to tap into their body’s built-in systems to help them stay calm.

And they do this with strategic breath work.

Of course, the SEALs don’t use just any deep breathing exercise. Their go-to is one called “square breathing.”

But you don’t have train to become a Navy SEAL to learn it. Square breathing is so simple, anyone can do it.

Master square breathing in 5 simple steps

The first thing you need to know is that it’s called “square breathing” because you split your breath up into four equal parts.

Here’s how you do it:

1. Slowly inhale for four seconds. (Count slowly in your head).

2. Gently hold this breath for four seconds.

3. Slowly exhale for four seconds.

4. Now just wait for four seconds…without any sort of breathing.

5. Repeat steps 1 through 4 at least six times.

When you’re finished with this exercise, breathe at your own pace.

Take note of how you’re feeling. You should feel a bit calmer, more focused, and lighter.

As you get comfortable with this exercise, you can gradually increase how long you do each part. This, of course, is only if you’d like to feel the effects more deeply. (Just be sure that all the parts are of equal duration!)

Steve now uses square breathing each time he goes in for treatment. And he tells me it’s been a huge help.

So if you’d like to quell your anxiety, find your center, or improve your focus, give this breathing technique a try. To help you get things going, I recorded a guided square-breathing experience just for you. Check it out here.

Feel free to share it with anyone you think might need it.

And remember, always make taking impeccable care of yourself non-negotiable.

Be Well,

Jim Donovan, M.Ed.

P.S. – For more techniques to promote relaxation, improve your memory, and clear your mind, you might like my Sound Mind Protocol. Simply click here to learn more ways to unlock your brain’s peak abilities, or to get started today.


Divine, Mark. (2015.) Unbeatable Mind: Forge Resiliency and Mental Toughness to Success at an Elite Level. CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform. United States.

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About the author

Jim Donovan M.Ed., is a professional musician and educator. He's an Assistant Professor at Saint Francis University where he teaches music and how the power of sound can help you experience a healthier life.