Situational Awareness – Breathe Like A Navy SEAL

by Joe

Combating danger is more about what happens between your ears than the amount of ammo you’re carrying or the gear you’ve stockpiled.

A highly trained surgeon who becomes overwhelmed and anxious at a motor vehicle crash can’t properly apply his skills.

A Navy SEAL is “always armed” because he has been trained in how to use his mind effectively during combat.

Our military calls this battle hardening. And we all need some of it.


– How to breathe like a SEAL to keep focus in EVERY situation

– Videos to improve Situational Awareness

– “Cooper’s Colors” infographic

Here we go!

Survival Mindset

Physical preps and skills are often discussed in our community.

It’s much easier to talk about and write about a thing you can point to and clearly describe – like a 5 gallon bucket or a paracord rock sling.

Talking (and writing) about what happens in our minds when we’re exposed to danger is much harder.

But like my grandmother used to say (rest in peace): “Nothing good comes easy!”

How we can improve on our natural, human reactions to danger?

Two earlier articles mental toughness and 7 powerful Navy SEAL habits describes ways to think differently about danger.

One way to super-charge these techniques is with our breathing.

SEAL Breathing

John Marx at interviewed Commander Eric Potterat, Ph.D., the Force Psychologist for the U.S. Navy SEALs.

In the interview, Commander Potterat describes a technique called “combat breathing”:

This processes uses a specific breathing technique that Dr. Potterat described as the “Theory of 4′s” which involves deep diaphragmatic breathing using a 4×4 count.

You take in a deep breath using your diaphragm, filling 25% of your lungs on each count for 4 seconds, and then exhaling 25% of the air from your lungs on each count for 4 seconds. Repeat this for 4-6 minutes.

This can be one of the most effective techniques and can be employed in a variety of situations. It is very efficient at counteracting all the stress reactions that occur in the human body and can be used to condition your body to relax.

Cade Courtley, a former Navy SEAL, did an interview for ABC’s 20-20 about being prepared.

In the interview Courtley mentions battle proofing, saying:

Both mentally and physically rehearsing for a dangerous situation is “huge,” what the military calls “emergency conditioning” or “battle proofing,” Courtley said.

“From the military standpoint, as a soldier, before you go into combat you kind of close your eyes and you think about, ‘OK, I can expect it’s going to sound like this, it’s going to feel like this, it’s going to be chaotic, it’s going to be loud,’” he said.

And Navy SEAL breathing?

It’s so effective that Courtley uses this technique even when driving in traffic!

Remembering to breathe in high-stress situations can help calm you and allow you to think more clearly, Courtley said.

“You breathe in for four seconds, you breathe out for four seconds, and it’s something as simple as that,” he said. “Not only are you getting oxygen — enriching your body with oxygen — but you’re giving this thing a chance to like, okay, bring it down.”

“I mean, I use combat breathing when I’m driving and I get cut off.”

It’s a good article.

Cooper’s Colors

Jeff Cooper was a United States Marine who helped revolutionize a lot of the way we now think about danger, as well as small arms.

From the Jeff Cooper Wikipedia page:

John Dean “Jeff” Cooper (May 10, 1920 – September 25, 2006) was a United States Marine and the creator of what is known as “the Modern Technique” of handgun shooting, and one of the 20th century’s foremost international experts on the use and history of small arms.

One thing he’s known for are his “Cooper’s Colors.” From Wikipedia:

The color code, as originally introduced by Jeff Cooper, had nothing to do with tactical situations or alertness levels, but rather with one’s state of mind. As taught by Cooper, it relates to the degree of peril you are willing to do something about and which allows you to move from one level of mindset to another to enable you to properly handle a given situation.

State of mind is everything, and without proper state of mind when SHTF, you’re dead in the water.

And using the Navy Seal breathing technique can help you keep your proper state of mind in high stress environments.

cooper's colors doesn’t seem to exist any longer, or I would have linked to the source.

Homeland Security SA Training

Here’s a PDF from Homeland Security.

It’s from their Office of Auxiliary and Boating Safety Division, Team Coordination Training and includes their situational awareness training manual.

Technical Advancements in Situational Awareness

Although the bulk of situational awareness training involves training your mind, this video is cool enough to be included here.

This is the helmet platform providing theater information in heads-up displays for our men and women in the field.

Pretty cool!

Diver Situational Awareness

And here’s a video on training divers the skill of situational awareness.

Dr. Richard Sadler, MD, FACS applies a “metacognitive approach” to safety and situational awareness.

This video is a little long, and a little slow, but interesting.

And here’s an interesting article on meditation used in the military.

How will you apply situational awareness to your preps?

Please share! Help us get the word out, because we’re all in this together!

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