“Just breathe” borders on cliché, but sometimes a cliché’s origin is filled with meaning. They become clichés when one speaks the words so frequently, without thought, that those words lose their meaning. When “just breathe” is spoken mindfully, though, and followed by a deep breath through the nose and released through the mouth, the meaning is reinforced and one can experience some relief from tension.

“Just breathe” as an effective coping strategy was reinforced for me as my husband Lloyd and I went through fertility work-ups and officially received an infertility diagnosis, a year after we lost our son, Patrick, at 20 weeks. While it felt like another blow, we held onto hope that we may finally get help trying to conceive our subsequent baby.

Unfortunately, we were also dealing with several other challenges at the same time, which made life almost unbearable. Everything felt like a battle, and I was sick of fighting all the time. I was exhausted, spent, defeated, and frustrated. My anxiety was at an all-time high, and only two things seemed to bring relief: the three-minute dance party (which I shared a few months ago) and a genuine reminder to “just breathe.”

When “just breathe” didn’t bring enough relief, or I couldn’t manage to even take a deep breath after speaking the words, I’d pull out my phone and open the app, Stop, Breathe & Think. I discovered this app through Mommy Interrupted, and by taking 10-15 minutes to check in with myself and listen to one of their meditations could give me a break, sometimes even resetting my day a bit to lessen the amount of anxiety that manifested through tension in my body.

Stop, Breathe & Think asks, “How are you?” and walks you through a few questions to assess what meditations might help you in the moment. It takes away the guesswork and thinking about what you need in the moment and simply provides it for you. Their three steps help you “develop and apply kindness and compassion in your daily life through a process called, Stop, Breathe, & Think.” The three steps are outlined on their website:

  • Stop—Stop what you are doing. Check in with what you are thinking, and how you are feeling.
  • Breathe—Practice mindful breathing to create space between your thoughts, emotions, and reactions.
  • Think—Learn to broaden your perspective and strengthen your force field of peace and calm by practicing one of the meditations.

My favorite part, though, is that after working through one of the meditations, you earn stickers. I find stickers weirdly motivating, and I really love that this app incorporates a motivational system. The app has simple but effective graphics, soothing meditations, and an easy interface. I have been very thankful to have found this resource.

The reality is that sometimes life sucks. Sometimes you have to slog through the muck and you’re not sure you can make it. It feels unfair, especially when you’re also dealing with grief. Isn’t the loss and grief enough? Can’t we catch a break from other nonsense? Unfortunately, that’s not how life works. It’s one of the cruel realities we have to accept—that life keeps moving and with that movement comes other hard times.

I encourage you to try to “just breathe.” Don’t berate yourself with the words, and be sure to say them gently and with meaning. Use them with kindness and compassion, not as a judgment or a command. Incorporate those words, mindfully, into your daily life, both when life is extra-challenging as well as when things are going fairly smoothly. The more grounded you feel, the more in tune you are with yourself, the more mindfully you approach life will allow you to cope with every bit of life.

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