Two Top Tips on coping with Trauma Symptoms – from a Clinical Psychologist

Illustration of two head silhouettes showing trauma brain tangle and untangle

Living with trauma symptoms can be overwhelming and exhausting, especially if they flare up daily. In this short blog, I am going to share two practical tips that you can start using NOW to help you cope.

1)     Box Breathing
2)     54321

Box Breathing

Breathing exercises seem simple, but they really work because they calm the nervous system by activating the parasympathetic nervous system. The main advantage of breathing exercises is that they are discrete and you can do it anywhere without needing anything else. So how do you do box breathing? Think about a box and visualise each step (which lasts for 4 seconds) as each line of the box

Breathe in through your nose (four seconds)
Hold your breath (four seconds)
Breathe out through your mouth (four seconds)
Hold your breath (four seconds)

Ideally, repeat each step at least three times, or until you begin to feel calmer. If four seconds feels too challenging then you can shorten it to three seconds until you are used to it.

You can check out my Instagram page here for a picture of the box breathing. The more you practise the easier it will become until eventually its second nature.


This is my go-to technique in my clinical work because it is simple but powerful. This technique uses your five senses to ground you in the present and hold your attention in the present. This can be particularly helpful if you are caught up in a flashback or trauma memory. Like box breathing, it can also be used wherever you are. So how do you do 54321?

5 – name five things you can see
4 – name and touch four things
3 – name three things you can hear
2 – name two things you can smell
1 – take a deep breath in and let it all go

That’s all from me for now. Give them a go and see how you get on.

Dr Maria Tucknott
Clinical Psychologist and EMDR therapist