“Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.” – Viktor Frankl
What happens when you head to the doctor and later receive a call about the rest of your life?
That was my chapter of a book I believed was coming to an end. Despite all of my faltering emotions over the past weeks, I came out stronger and learned the most important lesson when you receive life-changing news…
Step 1: Just Breathe
On January 30, 2017, I was contacted by my nurse at the Veterans Affairs hospital and told that they found something on my X-Ray. The problem was, they were not talking about my knee. She explained that the Radiologist looked at my chest X-Ray and found that I was in early stages of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease or COPD.
At that moment, the rest of her words were a sideshow. I heard nothing except my own lungs breathing at a quickening pace. I could only mutter, “COPD…as in I am going to die?” How was this possible for a 37-year-old who does not smoke or vaporize? A slew of tests followed with the ultimate understanding that I need to live life a bit different to maintain the current level of functioning that decreased over a three-month period.
I could have given up. I wanted to with every inch of my being, but…
I could have given up. I wanted to with every inch of my being. However, something struck me from all of the years of advice I have given clients in therapy. I repeated a simple mantra. Just breathe. Weeks later I changed with a ferocity and desire I never knew. Medications, exercise, and diet are part of my life. No more constant snacking and poor eating habits. Just breathe. No more excuses for why I cannot exercise today. Just breathe. No more ignoring my health for instant gratification. Just breathe.
Just breathe…in and out. One fill at a time and you will open up windows to a universe you have missed. A simple breath that is focused and genuine will bring benefits that seem impossible in the darkest of times.
Until anatomy and physiology exploded on the scene, we understood one fact; lungs were in place to sustain life. But the power of breath can enhance life and make it worth sustaining.
From yoga to psychotherapy, from massage to competition, breath is recognized as fulfilling and energizing. Beyond the long-accepted facts that increased oxygen has medical benefits, breath has sacred and enlightening properties.
How to Get Through Hard Times & Turn it into Opportunity
Today you will learn how a single breath can change your world
The theory of deep breathing is that it allows us to focus internally. The proof is everywhere and easy to test no matter what your situation is. There is no magic to buy into. There are no books, CDs, or seminars I wish to sell. All I offer is a two-step method to alter the worst of situations and make difficulties bearable. The best part is you can start now. It’s just a breath away.
Breathing for even a few moments can offer us so much:
A calming moment – Taking a few deep breaths before an anxiety-producing event can mean the difference between preparation and lack thereof. You studied for your speech, and you practiced your sport for 10,000 hours, but no matter how hard you worked, nerves get in the way. Taking some deep breaths before performance is relaxing.
A focusing effect – Those same simple breaths can bring the focus in the midst of chaos. Urgency is everywhere but sparing two seconds for a deep breath will help you concentrate on the goal.
An extra second – Taking air in and out gives you extra time to regroup and gather your thoughts. When you are upset, angry, or scared, take a few breaths and focus on your lungs, chest, and stomach. Allow this moment to be part of your daily routine, and you gain precious seconds to think before action.
Affirmation – Taking a breath during painful news offers you the opportunity to begin coping and find honesty and healing in your mind, body, soul, and spirit.
Connection – Taking in the air provided by the planet reminds you that you are part of a whole and an individual all at once. It simultaneously shrinks and enlivens you. Nothing can be more fulfilling and straightforward.
“How do you do it?”
It seems irrelevant to ask and yet we forget to do this every day. There is little to say on the ‘proper’ way to breathe, but there are two simple rules. Make it simple and make it genuine.
Part 1: Breathe in. Breathe out. When you are ready to take some pure and uninterrupted breaths, find a space that is yours. If that space is not available, say at work or a party, find a space to rent for a minute or two. Make it calming, silent, and alone. Once you find the space, it’s time to breathe.
Part 2: Concentrate on what you are doing. Feel, think, and if need be, tell yourself, “this is me breathing in…this is me breathing out.” Be present and be focused on nothing but breathing.
After three weeks on an extraordinary rollercoaster of anger, despair, and the want to give in, I remembered to breathe. I found myself centered. The delightful side effect of a few moments of focus and clarity opened up amazing stores of energy and drive. The desire to live outweighed all of the fears and anxieties that attempted to rule my life. Repeat that to yourself. “My fears and anxieties are ATTEMPTING to rule my life.” Remember it and make it your mantra day by day and minute by minute. The only person in the universe that can allow fear to invade you…is you.
You are as strong as you allow yourself to be and in the darkest times, that strength seems microscopic. But remind yourself that others see how mighty you are when you survive the daily battles that attempt to make living impossible.
So the only question that remains is, “what battle am I going to conquer today?” Once you figure that out, it is time to take the most important step of your life: Just breathe.