How Learning To Exhale Can Save Your Life

Remember the scene from the movie Titanic when the ship was on its side and the water came gushing in, filling the dining area with water? Can you imagine the terror the people in the sinking ship experienced?

On the night of Hurricane Sandy, I found myself playing out a very similar scene in our basement in Normandy Beach, NJ. Within moments, I went from simple organization to feeling like I was on the Titanic. Our neighbor's home suddenly collapsed, sending debris into our home. All eight basement windows burst, allowing walls of water to flood our reality. Just like that scene from the Titanic.

One moment I’m holding an item my mother once cherished, and survival mode kicks in the next. No time to think; the only thing to do was run. So run I did. I ran across the basement, up the stairs, and once I reached the top of the stairs, I ran into another wall of water. An estimated 7 feet of water in less than a moment ... nothing left to do but close the door and exhale.

Breathing saved my life and sanity during a time of immense trauma and fear. I specifically recall telling myself to exhale over and over again. Just exhale became my new mantra. Over the next 12 hours I kept redirecting my mind back to the breath, using it to keep as calm as possible while my better half, Jack, risked his life over and over again to save others. He not only saved our neighbor, whose home collapsed with her in it, but three other precious human beings whose homes also collapsed from the waves that pounded our beloved shore.

As it turns out, deep breathing is not only relaxing, it’s been shown to positively affect the heart, the brain, digestion and the immune system. The next time tension starts creeping in, direct your attention to the exhale, elongate it and feel your shoulders soften, feel the tension escaping your body. All it takes is a few rounds and you’re well on your way to restoring balance mentally as well as physically.

So whether you're negotiating in business, navigating a new route in life, or in the midst of a natural disaster, mindfully exhaling can help you release tension, refocus and restore a sense of balance.

Post-Sandy update: Three of the four rescued lost their homes completely; the forth is slowly rebuilding. Jack and I will move home at the end of April. No lives were lost on the barrier island. Debris is still visible and serves as a constant reminder of how vulnerable we really are. Just Exhale is still my mantra!

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