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Breathe First. Respond Second.


There is always time for an intentional breath.

In fact, there is huge power in even a single intentional breath.

One intentional breath is the quickest way to break away from reaction and to give space for response to emerge.

It doesn’t mean you’ll instantly be less angry or frustrated. But it cracks the window to release some pressure and invites in the possibility of perspective.

Let’s do one together right now.

Without being overly dramatic or even striving for a deep breath, just inhale for the count of three.

Gently hold your breath for one count.

Exhale for the count of three.

Pause in emptiness for one count.

Now, resume your normal breathing.

That’s it. Notice whether you can discern any difference in your state. Maybe there is no change. That’s fine, too.

Surprise Bonus: You just did a micro meditation. Yep. Meditation, at its essence is about your mind being present. And one of the easiest ways to be present is to fully focus on your breathing.

Your challenge for the week is to practice taking one intentional breath from time to time. Maybe before you check your email, or respond to a chat message, or in a meeting where someone is saying something stupid.

The 3-1-3-1 count breathing is just one way of taking an intentional breath. Experiment with what works for you. I know some people who think “I inhale calm” and “I release judgement” on their intentional breath.

You can, of course, experiment with taking several intentional breaths. If you’ve got the time, feel free. You probably can’t do that in the middle of a meeting where you need to address what’s just been said. But if you are just answering email, then go for it.

If you are a leader, I additionally challenge you to model in your daily behavior intentional pauses like this. Normalize taking a breath before responding during challenging situations. Learn to be okay with the silence in the room while you do.

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