Professor of the Practice of Law University of Denver Sturm College of Law

Take a Breath to Induce Calm

Apr. 9, 2020

You can engage the rest-and-digest recovery system to help control the fight-or-flight stress response. Your tool is your breath. Slow managed breathing can reduce anxiety. Sit comfortably, feel the ground beneath your feet, and slowly inhale followed by a gradual exhale. You can count the beats, such as inhale for 4 beats, hold for 2 beats, and exhale for 4 beats.

Enhance your rest-and-digest healing capacity with a regular meditation practice. Meditation involves sitting quietly and focusing on the breath, noticing if your mind wanders to a thought, and gently nonjudgmentally returning your attention to your breathing.

Alicia Keys taught Stephen Colbert to meditate on his April 2, 2020 episode. She says that at the end of her meditation sessions, she asks the universe for what she needs, such as more strength, patience, sleep, or peace.

Meditation and mindfulness can be taught to our children during these unprecedented times to help reduce their fear and anxiety. A study that examined the impact of a mindfulness and meditation curriculum on 6th graders found that the students who received the training reported feeling less stress and fewer negative feelings such as anger or sadness. Brain scans of these kids also showed reduced right amygdala activation, which is where the stress response is initiated. According to researcher Clemens C.C. Bauer, the study indicates that “mindfulness training recalibrates the automatic and unconscious response to fear, which leads to a ubiquitous resilience to stress. It is easy to learn and can be practiced everywhere.”

Takeaway: Empower your rest-and-digest recovery system with self-care practices. Leverage online resources, including those suggested below, to explore the options and identify what works for you.

Bonus Breathing Techniques: Practice these deep breathing techniques to increase oxygen to the lungs, demonstrated by Nurse Sarah and Dr. Russell, Queens Hospital in the UK, which are potentially lifesaving against corona virus, at

Bonus Resource: Watch Alicia Keys at the YouTube link below with her Stay Home adaptation of Flo Rida’s My House.


Debra S. Austin, Windmills of Your Mind: Understanding the Neurobiology of Emotion, 54 Wake Forest L. Rev. 931, 967 (2019)

Alicia Keys Interview on The Late Show (where she teaches Stephen Colbert how to meditation), Apr. 2, 2020,

Eric W. Dolan, Neuroscience study indicates mindfulness training can recalibrate the brain’s response to fear in school kids, PsyPost, Mar. 28, 2020,

Zee Krstic, The 11 Best Meditation Apps to Help you Find Inner Peace, Good Housekeeping, Mar. 30, 2020,

Alicia Keys Puts an At-Home Spin on Flo Rida’s “My House”, The Late Show, Apr. 2, 2020,

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