Battling Burnout: Make Time to Breathe

Physician's Money Digest, September 2007, Volume 14, Issue 9

To relax your body and mind, all you have to do is tune in to the slow, steady movements of your breathing. Your breathing is a powerful stress-fighting ally that you can call on anytime, anywhere, and it doesn't cost a thing. Because it's easy to forget about your breathing when you're feeling rushed or tense, you may need to learn how to make time to breathe. Forget about fancy meditation rooms—the only tool you need to intentionally integrate breathwork into your daily routine is a breath trigger.

Breathing Triggers

A breath trigger is an event or situation that happens frequently during your day (eg, answering your phone, greeting a new patient, stopping at a red light). The first step is to pick a trigger that will remind you to pause and take a deep breath. Let's say you picked "greeting a new patient" as your breath trigger. Before entering a new patient's room, you remember to stop and take a deep breath of air. Let it out slowly and intentionally. Take another deep breath, and then let it out. Then enter the patient's room.

As the days go by, if you use your patient appointments as triggers for your breathwork, you'll notice that purposeful breathing will become an ingrained daily habit for you. There is no need to get up early, attend a weeklong meditation retreat, or sit crosslegged in the forest.

Adding More Options

As you get more comfortable with this technique, you can add more breath triggers into your day. You can also explore different ways of breathing, including:

  • As you inhale, count up from one to four. As you exhale, count down from four to one.
  • As you inhale, think, "I breathe in calm." As you exhale, think, "I release my stress."
  • Hold your breath for a few seconds after each inhale and exhale.

Christi Lehner-Collins is a certified holistic health counselor based in Boston, Massachusetts. She specializes in helping busy professionals all over the world practice stress-free healthy eating and guilt-free self-care. She welcomes questions or comments at christi@bostonhealth coach.com. For more information and free resources, visit www.bostonhealthcoach.com.