Inhale. Exhale. Repeat.

January 29, 2024

A Guest Post by Gay Yellen

Is life stressing you out? Take a breath and relax. Or so we’re told. Some days, it’s not so simple.

I’ve learned how to breathe four times in my life. Once, with that first, lifegiving gasp. The second time, when I was five and learning how to swim. Third time, in acting class, with lessons on voice projection and breath control.

The most important breathing lesson came a decade later. As a young adult I was introduced to biofeedback, a kind of visualization technique used to control some of our body functions like heart rate, breath, muscle response, and brain waves. It can help relax muscles, decrease heart rate, and slow and deepen breathing. It has been clinically proven to help with a myriad of ailments.

I was skeptical, but after other treatments for chronic pain failed me, I was a prime candidate for the training. They hooked me up to monitors to measure my progress.

The first lesson focused on how to exhale. “Empty your lungs as much as you can,” they said. Then the task was to passively allow air to refill my lungs, which was harder than it sounds when you’re stressed. Concentrating on lowering the numbers on the body function indicators took a lot of practice, but eventually, I succeeded.

In the last session, they prompted me to recall a place where I’d felt peaceful in the past. I tried and rejected a few lovely memories (mountain hikes, sailing, whale watching) before I landed on one that stuck. Eyes shut, I was told to put myself there and try to re-experience the sounds, smells, and quality of light in that place. And breathe the new way.

Whether consciously or subconsciously, fiction writers can’t help but mine parts of our personal lives when we create a story. I had always planned to adapt a frightening experience from my life to become the inciting incident in The Body in the News, the latest release in my Samantha Newman Mystery Series. Later on, another real-life experience popped in unexpectedly.

After her colleague at the TV station is killed, Sam is threatened, too, and she’s at her wit’s end. A friend recommends a “healer” of sorts to help her relax. Though she’s skeptical, Sam learns a new way to breathe and eventually manages to visualize her own peaceful place. Whether or not it saves her in the end is… Oops, no spoilers here!

The biofeedback training worked for me. Even now, when I’m stressed, I can shut my eyes and return to the deserted tropical island in my memory. I can still climb into that one lone shade tree, listen to the gentle waves, and observe how the sunlight dapples its way through the leaves as the sea breeze fills my lungs and caresses my skin.

Many of us could use a workable relaxation technique as we navigate what promises to be another stressful year. Here’s hoping you can find your own inner peace in 2024.

What helps you relax when life gets crazy? Please share your thoughts in the Comments below, and you could win a free e-book from the series!

About the Samantha Newman Series: All Samantha Newman wants is a good job, a place to call her own, and a chance at love. But in her rollercoaster life, things don’t come easy. Just when success seems possible, a dead body shows up and Samantha is in the hot seat. If she didn’t have a sense of humor, she’d really go crazy. Her story in the award-winning Samantha Newman Mysteries will make you smile and perhaps even shed a tear as she wades through minefields in search of the life she wants to live.

About the Author: Gay Yellen was a working actress before she moved behind the camera to become Assistant to the Director of Production at the American Film Institute (AFI). She later shifted to writing for a living and became a magazine editor and national journalism award winner. Gay was also the contributing book editor for the international thriller, Five Minutes to Midnight (Delacorte), which was a New York Times “Notable.” Gay lives in Texas. She loves connecting with book clubs and community groups in person and online. You can read more about her on Facebook, BookBub, or X, and contact her through her website, Gay

Photo credit: the guest author provided the photo from a royalty-free site.

Posted in Guest Post • Tags: , , , |  20 Comments


20 thoughts on “Inhale. Exhale. Repeat.

  1. Thanks for being our guest today! Reading is my escape when things get stressful. It helps to relax my mind at bedtime. This will most often be a historical romance, fantasy or sci-fi as I want to immerse myself in another world.

    1. Thanks, Nancy, to you and all the great writers here at Booklover’s Bench for hosting me today I agree, reading is a great stress reliever, especially when you’re reading something entertaining.

  2. Hi Gay, Thanks for being our guest at Booklover’s Bench. I love series where the main character has a rollercoaster life!

  3. Thanks for being our guest at the Bench. My favorite part of Yogi is the belly breathing — it is SO relaxing.

    1. Cheryl, it’s an honor and a pleasure to be with all of you today. And, yes, yoga is my favorite way to reduce stress and stay in shape.

  4. Thanks for joining us today, Gay. One of my best ways to destress is taking a long hot shower. There are days when I don’t want to turn off the water! Listening to music favorites comes in a close second.

    1. Lois, thank you for your gracious invitation to be here. Like you, I’ve loved long, hot showers all my life. My father—who was the most patient man on earth—rarely scolded me, except when I wanted to stay in the shower until the hot water ran out. It felt so good!

  5. Hi, I usually go for a walk, work in the garden or read a book. Looking forward to this series in print. Have a great week.

    1. Good ones, Alicia. Walkiing is a great relaxer, and so is gardening. There’s a park across the street from me. Strolling under the trees and hearing birdsong is one of my favorites!

  6. Thinking of something that I love does produce relaxation – which is hard for a Type A person. So enjoy your books!

  7. What helps me relaxe is an empty house and my lounge chair. I can enjoy a good book without any interuptions. I’m Olde, I need to be able to do that!

    1. Ha-ha! I can relate. My husband has a weekly poker night, and I always look forward to keeping myself company.

  8. I’m fascinated by your description of the breathing technique. I loose myself in a good mystery.

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