Feel Overwhelmed? Take a Breath

Our world can feel frenzied. Our minds can feel preoccupied with the many responsibilities and obligations. We may even find it difficult to turn off a constant stream of racing thoughts. The more we tell our minds to stop, the more they race. The constant stream of thoughts can leave us feeling exhausted and mentally numb.

How can we begin to slow down our minds and calm ourselves in the midst of the constant list of things that need our attention? What if there is not enough time to add anything more into an already packed schedule?

Mark Williams, professor at Oxford University, suggests a short practice that takes less than five minutes, two to three times a day, as a great place to start. He created his own “Three Minute Breathing Space” as a way to calm and center ourselves even when we are tired, anxious, or stressed.

“Its impact is twofold: first and foremost, it’s a meditation that’s used to punctuate the day, so that you can more easily maintain a compassionate and mindful stance, whatever comes your way. In essence, it dissolves negative thought patterns before they gain control over your life – often before you’re even aware of them. Secondly, it’s an emergency meditation that allows you to see clearly what is arising in from moment to moment when you feel under pressure. It allows you to pause when your thoughts threaten to spiral out of control, by helping you to regain a compassionate sense of perspective and to ground yourself in the present moment.” (Williams and Penman, 2011)

A daily meditation practice is the beginning of lasting change. With each little baby step, we can create new habits and gently train our brain to respond to the stressors in our life with a compassionate and mindful response.


  • Fuller Life’s Four Minute Breathing Space
  • Two or Three times each day
  • Each day, notice and jot down any differences

Williams, M. and Penman, D. (2011). Mindfulness: An Eight Week Plan for Finding Peace in a Frantic World.

Contributed by:

Jennifer Christian, M.A., LPC

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