Just Breathe

Author: Lalaine Estella

Take a moment to catch your breath. Notice your tummy rise and fall as you breathe naturally. Now take a slow, deep breath in, and pause. Exhale very slowly, taking a few seconds longer than it did to inhale. 

Repeat several times. 

Congratulations, you’ve just begun a meditation practice that focuses on breathing.

Survivors practice meditation

For those not used to meditation, keeping quiet and tuning out everything to focus on breathing can be a bit daunting. Sitting in stillness to focus on each breath doesn’t sit well with folks used to movement, noise and distractions. Even for those who do it regularly, it isn’t always easy — that’s why they call it a practice. 

A growing body of research is showing that controlled breathing, like we just did, has been shown to reduce stress and improve overall physical and mental health. 

Belisa Vranich, author of “Breathe: 14 Days to Oxygenating, Recharging, and Fueling Your Body & Brain,” says that learning to breathe properly can bring fresh oxygen to our body, through our organs and to the cellular level. 

“Changing the way you breathe will lower stress levels within minutes, faster than a Valium, a double shot of scotch or a good massage,” writes Vranich, who is a psychologist. “You can lower your blood pressure faster (and with less side effects) than any medication.” 

Further benefits of a breath meditation can help with the stress and anxiety that comes with grief. Heather Stang, author of the book “Mindfulness & Grief,” writes that when focusing on breath meditation, “you signal to your brain that it is safe to turn off the fight-flight-freeze response, which can help reduce anxiety. You also give your attention a place to rest, which will lessen rumination and worry.” 

Stang, who is on the TAPS Advisory Board and often facilitates grief and loss workshops on wellness, yoga therapy, and meditation for our survivors, writes that being mindful of your breath may feel foreign at first. “The first time you connect with your body you may feel as though you are meeting a long-lost friend,” she writes. 

If you’d like to boost your health to manage stress, reduce anxiety and work through grief, a very simple and effective way to start is to take a few minutes a day to catch your breath. 



This webinar, presented with Heather Stang at the TAPS Institute for Hope and Healing, discusses how the physical sensation of emotion can be your ally during tough times, and even provide you with inner wisdom and insight. This technique can be applied during a regular meditation practice, or on-the-spot real life situations when you feel overwhelmed. Access this webinar online; it is available through January 16, 2020.