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Want to Gain Control? Learn to Control Your Breath!

Mindset Made Simple Tip #68

It is amazing how life puts you in situations to test your mettle…and your mental performance tools!

This weekend provided a great training ground for me. And trust me when I say, my tools were tested!

I was on a Zoom around 10:30 on Friday and saw a call from my Dad. I had that quick “that’s weird” thought, since we don’t normally talk mid-morning, but went about my business as usual.

About an hour later, I came back around to that thought and called him, only to have him answer from the back of an ambulance. What I heard on the other end of the line threw me into instant overdrive.

Heart rate UP! Mind RACING!

Here we go!

Without even thinking I quickly moved through the house to grab what I might need and jump into my car and fly (I mean drive) downtown to see what is going on!

Before I even get out of the driveway, I realized I needed to STOP (read Tip #65 about the power of a hard stop!) and more!

It was time to BREATHE!

I have spent the past few weeks focusing on the amazing power or our breath with my teams. I am so glad it has been at the forefront of my mind!

It was time to put my money where my breath was!

Lucky for us, we have access to the most powerful stress reduction tool available to us at all times of the day – our breath!!

We can’t always control our mind with our mind, and we cannot control our thoughts (even though we can control how we react to them).

Sometimes we need to control our bodies first and the only way to do that is to change the way we are breathing NOW!

At this moment, I needed to think. I needed to be able to ask and answer questions. But first I needed to get to the hospital without needing an ambulance myself!

This called for control in every way.

Every minute of every day, 750ml of blood flow through our brain. If we interrupt our breathing pattern, even for a short period of time (think minutes, not hours) this blood flow reduces by about 40%. This reduction affects our ability to think, to see, to react and more!

I quickly thought “it is in my best interest to have all the blood available flowing through my brain RIGHT NOW!

I knew exactly what to do!

Breathe in slowly…and out slowly…but longer! The cadence of this breath is important!

When we need to gain control or lessen our anxiety, an EXHALE FOCUS is what we need to regain control of our heart rate…then our minds.

Longer exhales send signals to our brain to tell the heart to slow down. It also affects the 750ml of blood in our brain and reallocates it from our limbic system (the emotional driver in our brain) to our prefrontal cortex (the thinking part of our brain).

Seems like a good move for me…less emotion (and catastrophizing) and more thinking (of productive thoughts)!

So, the next time you get an unsolicited call from your parents – or a bad call on the field, an exhale-focused breath (maybe 2 in/4 out) will help your thinking brain kick in before you get kicked out!

Conversely, if you need to get yourself going like me three days into a hospital stay, an INHALE FOCUSED breath or two will do the trick!

When we intensely inhale or inhale longer, our heart rate speeds up and pumps us up as our heart pumps faster!

Although this is not what I needed the other day, it will come in handy as I get my exhausted butt out of bed tomorrow OR when I need to turn it on today to get things done!

This seems so easy. It’s as easy as breathing in and out!

BUT, just like anything else we do in our out of competition, it takes practice.

We aren’t going to throw a change-up or shoot a 3 just because the situation calls for it we haven’t practiced it.

The same goes for our breathing. Even though we do it without even thinking, it takes practice to CONTROL IT!

And since we don’t rise to the occasion under pressure, we fall back on our habits, learning to control our breath needs to be our “go-to.”

As I tell my teams, soldiers aren’t training in times of war. They are first trained in times of peace to be ready for war!

The same goes for EXHALE FOCUSED and INHALE FOCUSED breathing!

Practicing is pretty simple! Choose 5 x 5 box breathing, 6-2-8 breathing, 5 breaths a minute breathing, 4-7-8 breathing. Whatever you choose will help you change how your body is reacting.

There is even evidence that simple breathing meditations can change the structure of your brain! WOW!

The benefits of a daily breathing practice are incredible.

Most important may be the calm you can find when those you love are in trouble!

What a relief it is to know that you can choose to remain in control. Does this mean life gets easy?


It just means you may be able to think when you need to…and freak out or cry later!

So breathe deep…one way or the other! It will help you be where you need to be when you need to be there!

Have a great week! And if you are a praying person, send a few up for an ole’ guy in Akron!


Julie Jones

Certified Mental Performance & Mindset Coach

SSB Performance • 234-206-0946



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