Take a Breath

Most of us are looking for ways to relieve stress, especially professional stress inherent in practicing law. One of the most effective, readily available, and free tools to release stress is often overlooked: taking a breath. Deep breathing not only decreases stress, it also lowers blood pressure, promotes clearer thinking, and increases feelings of well-being. Putting conscious effort into remembering to breathe is rewarded by greater physical and mental ease. Deep breathing is one of the fastest ways to relax your nervous system and lower your heart rate. When the nervous system settles and the heart rate slows, a sense of calm, however small, awakens. Taking a deep breath also pauses the thinking mind. When we stop thinking—even for just a moment—the brain resets. When the brain resets, we have greater clarity and the ability to focus on what’s in front of us, here and now. The clearer we are, the more options we perceive, the easier decisions are to make, and the less stuck we feel. In our profession, we make hundreds if not thousands of decisions every day. What if the next time you felt stuck, experienced stress, or needed to make a difficult decision, you stopped thinking for a moment and took a breath?

Here’s how:

  1. Any time you feel physical or mental stress, need to make a difficult decision, or feel stuck, pause.
  2. Take a deep inhale—breathing in for as long as you comfortably can, feeling the breath going deep into your belly.
  3. Then exhale—breathing out for as long as you comfortably can, gently pushing the breath out of the belly.
  4. Then return to breathing normally and see if anything feels different. Notice if you feel any more calm or clear.
  5. If nothing feels different, take another deep breath...and another...and another until something shifts for the better.

Try this mindful breathing practice as many times a day as you can. You might try setting an alarm every hour to remind yourself to breathe deeply. The more you practice, the easier it is, and the more lasting impact it will have.

Laura Mahr is a NC lawyer and the owner of Conscious Legal Minds LLC. She coaches individual lawyers, consults with law firms, and conducts CLEs on using mindfulness and neuroscience to build resilience to stress, address secondary trauma, foster work-life balance, and prevent professional burnout. Contact Laura at laura@consciouslegalminds.com; find out more about her practice at consciouslegalminds.com.

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