Don’t Forget to Exhale

Susan Brumbaugh
4 min readJan 18, 2021

How much of your life do you spend holding your breath?

Photo by IIONA VIRGIN on Unsplash

When my oldest (now non-binary) kid was a baby, they would get upset about something, hold their breath, and pass out. They didn’t do it on purpose, taking one big breath in and sitting there with puffed-out cheeks, looking at me accusingly. Instead, they would just keep inhaling more and more with each sob, and with no more room in the lungs, they would simply go unconscious. It was like they forgot how to breathe out. My husband and his father apparently did this as babies too. The family advice? “Blow in their face and startle them!”

As adults, I think we sometimes forget to exhale too. Sometimes when we’re in a period of anticipation (positive or negative), we have a tendency to hold our breath — to prepare for what’s coming. Instead, we can use mindfulness meditation to call ourselves to the present moment by focusing on the breath and noticing how it feels to inhale and exhale. By remembering to exhale, we invite a sense of release or relief when we let go of the breath and let go of the tension we’ve been holding.

I’m a licensed mental health counselor who enjoys sharing mindful meditations and information about mindfulness. Below is a transcript of a meditation I led on this topic, and at the end of the article, you’ll find a link to the meditation video. Let’s practice exhaling.

Meditation Transcript

I’ll invite you to do whatever you need to do for yourself in these moments to prepare for this time that we have together, to allow the events of the day that have already happened and that are still to come to move into the background as we focus on the present moment and our own experiencing.

If closing your eyes is a comfortable thing to do I’ll invite you to do that, but it’s perfectly fine to have them open as well.

So as we focus on the now, as we let go of the what-was, and the what-if, we can ground and anchor ourselves by noticing the feeling of the floor beneath our feet or beneath our bodies. Knowing that in this moment, we are safe. We are secure.

And we can use our own breathing to anchor ourselves. Without needing to breathe any differently than we already are, we simply turn our attention and our focus to what it…

Susan Brumbaugh

Susan Brumbaugh is a criminal justice researcher who telecommutes, a licensed counselor, a mindfulness meditation practitioner, and a perpetual learner.