By MaryLee Herrmann

It’s going to be a beautiful day! Or so you think, until you arrive at the office.

You step through the door, and someone runs up to tell you the main elevator is broken.

We can deal with that.

But wait — a pipe burst and flooded the east corridor. Oh, and the truck with food for today’s meals hasn’t arrived … the choir that was supposed to perform today came down with the flu … a new resident unknowingly brought in bedbugs along with his favorite upholstered chair … and where is that weird smell coming from in the recreation room that no one can figure out?

Everyone is pulling at you for answers, and they need them now.

Your heart beats fast and loud. Your blood pressure rises to where you feel it in your ears. You just want to scream, “Stop! Go away! I give up!”

And just when you are sure this horrific feeling is never going to end, some calm, collected, well-meaning friend or co-worker, seeing your bulging eyes, gently suggests, “Breathe.”


Ugh, seriously?!? Breathe? I hate this advice! Anytime someone tells me to “breathe,” I just want to tell them to shut up.

Like I’m not already breathing. And as if that did anyone any good. Come on, I’m anxious, give me some real advice. Tell me to yell or go eat an entire large spinach and mushroom pizza. Take me to an axe throwing place. Encourage me to turn off my phone and binge some nonsense on Netflix for three days straight while sobbing over a bowl of Graeter’s Black Raspberry Chocolate Chip ice cream. Tell me it’ll be good to shop for shoes online and buy four pairs of boots at once. Now those are some real solutions, and years of research and case studies (aka my journals) have proven they work on getting through a tough time!

However, though you feel you’ve lost control, I guess you can’t really start watching Bridgerton from your office while Rome is burning around you. And when you get stressed, your body knows it, and your breathing can become uneven, and everything can begin to contract. You certainly aren’t going to do your best thinking if you are tight from head to toe. Not to mention, it’s not good for any of your body’s systems.

The thing that really sucks/doesn’t suck about someone telling you to breathe? Controlled breathing works. It really can help. At the least, breathing exercises can get you through a “moment,” and you can do it right where you are. And once you’ve recovered and brought your blood pressure down, your thought processes will resume as well.

An Easy One to Try

My favorite way to slow things down a moment and regroup is the 10-10-10 method. I’m not a doctor or yogi, but this is one I was taught.

  1. Close your eyes, and breathe in through your nose to the count of 10. Inhale slowly — you don’t want to pass out.
  2. Hold the breath for 10 seconds.
  3. Slowly let the air out through your mouth for, you guessed it, the count of 10. If you are in a place you feel comfortable doing so, make the exhale as audible as possible. You’ll really feel the tension releasing in your body.

Other than the physical and emotional benefits of breathing exercises, one thing I really like is that amid moments of chaos, breathing is one thing I can take control of, even if I have to do this several times.

If the 10-10-10 isn’t your cup of tea, another popular one is the “victory breath,” explained here by The Art of Living.

Breathing exercises seem a little too “woo-woo” for you? Think again. David Gloss’s article for Forbes, “Business Leaders Around the World Are Finding Power in Their Breath — Here’s How You Can, Too,” goes to prove that although it might feel lonely at the top when everything goes haywire, you aren’t alone, and that it’s okay — more than okay; sometimes it’s necessary — to take a moment to breathe.

Want to tell me to shut up? I get it, but take my advice, and give controlled breathing a shot. And if it doesn’t help at all, the first round of axe throwing is on me!