Jeff Davidson's book, Simpler Living, was Amazon Kindle #1 in its category, first quarter, 2012. Jeff is featured in the NY Times, Forbes, Chicago Tribune, Businessweek, Fortune, Organized Executive, and Success.

Take a Deep Breath and Relax

An increasing body of evidence indicates that panic disorders, in part, are respiration disorders. In other words, the onset of panic is often due to improper breathing on the part of the victim. Doctors observe that panic patients frequently undertake chest breathing, which requires the use of more muscles and energy to draw shallower breaths than diaphragmatic breathing. The typical adult uses diaphragmatic muscles to breath, which yields a deeper, less taxing, more easily achievable breath.

Breath is fundamental to your ability to function optimally. Phil Jackson, a former NBA player and ultra-successful coach, notes that when he is feeling anxious or out of control, especially during an intense moment in a game, it’s because he is shortchanging his breathing in some way. When he focuses on his breath, and gets back to a normal rhythm, he more readily regains control.

If you can control your breathing, you can actually control the beat of your heart, and most other symptoms of stress that you experience.

Plenty of Chances

When you think about it, there are plenty of times throughout the day when you can stop and get a second, third, or even fourth wind. Unfortunately, all too often, your internal motor is revving a little too high, and you miss the opportunity. Think about the last time that you stood in a bank line that was moving too slowly for you. Did you fidget and fret because you wanted to be out of there? If so, you added to the stresses of the day.

The next time that you are in any line that is moving too slowly for you use the opportunity to:
  • take some deep breaths,
  • stand more erectly,
  • envision a pleasant scene, and
  • get complete about what you have accomplished so far today.
Here are some other opportune places to pause, perhaps where you least expect there to be a pause:

Before You Are about to Address a Group

I know a fellow speaker who, when about to deliver the keynote presentation to a group of a thousand people or more, will take a couple of seconds before beginning to take in the total surroundings. A moment for panic and terror you think? Some people revel in the majesty of such an event. When else do you get the chance to stand in front of people and air your views?

Even if you are only speaking to a group of three at work, the opportunity is there. Naomi Rhode, a successful entrepreneur in partnership with her husband Jim, and a talented platform speaker, refers to what she calls the “privilege of the platform”– the honor of being able to be speak to others and to have them be willing to listen to you. If you’ve never considered this a special time where you could have a strategic pause, hereafter, you have dozens of opportunities awaiting you in the forthcoming year.

A Plane Seat, Train Seat, Bus Seat, or the Back of a Cab

When you are being transported by others, given that there isn’t undue concern for your safety, you have the wonderful opportunity to pause and reflect. The odds of your demise while a passenger in a vehicle operated by someone else are very slim. In fact, they are much less than the odds of your demise when you are the operator of a vehicle. Use the opportunity of being in motion, but not having to steer the vehicle to your best advantage. The longer the ride, the longer that you get to pause.

Before Dinner

Rather than wolf down your food, stop and reflect how great it is that you are about to eat. Think about how the food is going to taste before you actually taste it. Many people recite a prayer for the “bounty about which we are to receive,” and if that works for you, splendid.

Before Making Love

Especially if you are in love with your partner, what a wonderful time to momentarily dwell upon where you are in life. You are about to partake of some of the essence of another person.

During Athletic Contests

Have you ever noticed that the best foul shooters in basketball take an extra couple of seconds before releasing their shot? The best hitters in baseball stare into the field, get firmly set, and then look at pitches. In all sports, there is an advantage in taking a strategic pause at opportune moments to maintain a higher level of personal control.

When Getting Chewed Out

This may seem like the least likely time that you care to pause, but if you do so, you are in a better position to defuse inflammatory situations.

When a boss, or a spouse for that matter, is incensed and you are the object of their wrath, by pausing, you are able to gain insights that you might not otherwise gain if you simply jump into the fray. Much of the anger that other people whom you know direct at you is self-correcting, i.e., later they will apologize for overstepping their boundaries or for having blown their stack. Moreover, your most appropriate response is not likely to come if you respond in anger. Recalling the observation of Dr. Hans Selye, when you’re under stress, you will make the wrong decision.

When you are under verbal attack, it’s likely you’ll say something that you’ll regret. When you pause and rather matter-of-factly reflect on the situation, you have a much better chance of responding in a way that is helpful to both parties.

Take That–There is a compelling scene in the movie Crimson Tide, wherein Gene Hackman’s character smacks Denzel Washington on the jaw twice in succession. It is a dramatic moment in which the two men’s differences of whether to launch a nuclear missile towards Russia is coming to a head. Part of the drama of this situation is that Washington’s character is much younger, bigger, and physically fit than that of Hackman’s, and it would be no sweat to take Hackman out with one punch.

Washington would be justified in striking back. After both blows, instead, he puts his hand to his jaw as if to survey the damage and to relieve some of the pain, and then looks back at his attacker with an almost curious detachment. Washington is pausing, and reflecting on an issue of importance to humankind. There are three minutes left before the decision to launch the missile has to be made. The men are awaiting crucial information that will affect the decision. Washington’s ability to reflect on the potential for global thermonuclear war, greatly outweighed his momentary pain and discomfort of being struck. By pausing, he was able to grasp the big picture without letting the immediate moment affect him.

Jeff Davidson is "The Work-Life Balance Expert®," is a preeminent time management authority, has written 65 mainstream books, and is an electrifying professional speaker, making 886 presentations to clients such as Lockheed Martin, Eckerd, Kaiser Permanente, IBM, American Express, Lufthansa, Swissotel, Re/Max, USAA, Worthington Steel, and the World Bank. Jeff is Executive Director of the Breathing Space Institute and the author of books such as:
  • Simpler Living (Skyhorse Publishing)
  • Dial It Down--Live it Up (Sourcebooks)
  • The 60 Second Innovator (Adams Media)
  • Breathing Space (CreateSpace)
  • Accomplishing Your Goals (Smart Guide Publications)
Jeff is the premier thought leader on work-life balance issues and has been widely quoted in the Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Christian Science Monitor, New York Times, USA Today, Businessweek, Forbes, and Fortune. Cited by Sharing Ideas Magazine as a "Consummate Speaker," Jeff believes that career professionals today in all industries have a responsibility to achieve their own sense of work-life balance, and he supports that quest through his website

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