Laugh if you like, but I was feeling stressed about going to the DMV to switch my driver’s license from Georgia to Illinois.
OK, so I’ll admit that some of the stress had to do with needing to take a test about the rules of the road (as if I remember how many feet before a turn I should put on my blinker), but the bigger reason was that I was worried that the famously cheery DMV workers might not accept my documentation.
After all, I only had a welcome letter—not bill—from a utility company to prove my residency.
But somehow in my fatigue of late, I got it in my mind (mistakenly) that I needed a state I.D. fast! fast! fast! to get health insurance in Chicago before the December 15th enrollment cutoff.
And now that I’ve tried to convince you that my stressing over DMV was somewhat warranted, here’s what I did to quell it:
I took time to breathe.
Or in a way that my lower stomach rose and fell as I took in air through my nose and let it out through my mouth.
And all it took was four rounds of doing that to dissipate the tension in my chest.
Shallow breathing increases tension and anxiety; bust them both by breathing deeply.
Two days after breathing myself to a better-feeling place, I was holding my breath while in line at the DMV.
When it was my turn, the documentation checker told me what I’d suspected about my letter from the gas company:
“Sorry, ma’am,” he said, “I know they won’t accept this.”
“Oh, really?” I said pathetically, “but they haven’t sent me a bill yet.”
He reiterated that he was sorry and looked at me as if to say there was nothing he could do.
I looked back as if I didn’t understand that it was time to go home.
And then I thought…
Don’t get upset, just breathe.
And I took a deep breath while staying put at the counter.
“Wait!” the guy said, “Did you register your account online?”
I’d intended to but hadn’t, I told him.
“Go over there and do it and come right back up here.”
Not to deprive you of the details of what happened next, but it all worked out at DMV that day.
The benefits of deep breathing are many, including making space for better outcomes.
Of course, breathing is necessary to live.
And a Google search of deep breathing can turn up benefits that help us live better, like reducing tension, as I mentioned, as well as strengthening the immune system, detoxifying the body and boosting energy, among others.
But what you may not find on health blogs, is that breathing can put just enough space in a situation for it to go better:
By taking a deep breath in my disappointment, I made space for the documentation checker to see a solution—had I become irritable or reacted to what he said at first and walked off, I would have had to go back a second time to get what I wanted.
That story is mundane, I know.
But I hope you think of it the next time you feel disappointed or gripped by a strong emotion in the heat of a moment.
I hope you think of it and remember to breathe.
Or in a way that you can’t suck in your gut at the same time (that’s less beneficial chest breathing), and must embrace your Buddha belly to do it right 🙂