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COPING WITH COVID-19: Square Breathing

Wanda Sevey on how square breathing can help manage anxiety and stress
Wanda Sevey

As the Princeton Theological Seminary community concludes another academic year and transitions to the summer months, the COVID-19 crisis continues. To help the community navigate this new season, experienced counselors in the Seminary community are providing guidance on simple methods you can use to reduce anxiety and stress. We hope you find comfort and hope as you read about tips, techniques, and testimonies from members of our campus and alumni community.

This week’s reflection is offered by Wanda Sevey, acting director of student counseling.


Everyone needs an inner toolbox to manage the anxiety and stress we are experiencing these days. The Office of Student Counseling is reaching out to the entire Princeton Seminary community to help you add new strategies to your toolbox to help manage stress.

News square breathing

Square breathing is one such strategy that is made particularly powerful when combined with deep breathing. Using slow, deep breathing:

  1. As you inhale through your nose, count to four.
  2. Hold your breath for four counts.
  3. Breathe out through your mouth for four counts.
  4. Hold your breath for four counts.
  5. Repeat several times.

When using square breathing, some people find it useful to look around their environment and find something shaped like a square (a picture, a window, or even a building) to help anchor their breathing. Focusing your eyes on one corner of the square, move your eyes along the sides of the square as you breathe and count. Another strategy is to draw an imaginary square on your open palm as you breathe.


    Wanda Sevey, MDiv ‘85, LMFT, is Princeton Seminary’s acting director of student counseling. Her work is rooted in her conviction that being in relationship is part of being created in God’s image and that the power of relationship to transform us is rooted in the work of the Holy Spirit. She works from an integrated relational perspective and has specialized training in Emotionally Focused Therapy, EMDR, Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction, The Gottman Approach, and Internal Family Systems. Wanda met her life partner, Ruth Anne, when they were both students at Princeton Seminary in the 1980s. Their daughter is currently a college student and they also count Daisy, their Boston terrier, as part of the family. Wanda is a licensed couples, family, and sex therapist and is ordained in the United Church of Christ. She graduated from Whitworth University, Princeton Theological Seminary, and the Council for Relationships (CFR) in Philadelphia. She served congregations in a variety of pastoral roles before joining CFR, where she served for over 20 years counseling individuals, couples, and families, teaching in the Couple and Family Therapy Masters program at Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia, supervising graduate students, and serving as director of two counseling offices.

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