When in Doubt, Breathe In and Out
by Victoria Castle
“I was in the midst of this heated conversation. And you know what I did? I actually took a breath, felt my feet on the floor, and unclenched my jaw. No one noticed except me. But I sure noticed the difference it made.”
When a coaching client can make a report like that, it shows her ability to face challenges in a whole new way. It’s great news, particularly for Betty Sue, who often felt overwhelmed and adversarial in meetings. She had been working on her ability to say what was important without being a bulldozer.
Her shift came as a result of her on-going practice of getting centered so she could act on what she cared about rather than just react to the stress. Several times a day Betty Sue checked in with how she was feeling and what tension she felt in her body. She began to notice a chronic tightness between her shoulders, a tight jaw, and how often she was holding her breath. “It’s a wonder I don’t pass out as little as I breathe,” she said.
Here’s the centering formula she practiced:
- Take a quick scan of your tension, breathing, and posture
- Exhale, followed by a full inhale into the belly
- Relax tension especially in jaw, neck, shoulders, back and abdomen
- Feel your feet on the floor
- Think about what you care about, what matters to you – in this moment or in life
- Act with purpose
It wasn’t just Betty Sue who liked the difference. Her colleagues began to comment on how much they appreciated the way she operated under fire, and her family really liked how she wasn’t so cranky when she got home.
Can something as simple as taking a breath shift a mood, a conversation, a relationship, maybe even a career? It can because it impacts our ‘way of being.’ By noticing her state, her way of being, Betty Sue could see a pattern that wasn’t serving her. She got curious, and then got busy engaging in the practice of catching and shifting her state.
“I realize that most of the people around me don’t know how to be centered. They’re just caught in the reaction mode all the time. I feel like I have a huge advantage. Even if I get caught there for a minute, I now know what to move to. Centering is my new best friend.”