Why You Need Breathing Space and How To Find It

I feel like an elephant has been sitting on my chest for months, and he has finally stood up and lumbered off to look for peanuts.

And now I am able to take a full, deep, cleansing breath…


I feel lighter and hopeful and open—I never want to forget this feeling! Ecstasy!

But you know what the strangest thing is? For all these months, I didn’t know I wasn’t breathing.

The past year has brought a lot of big changes into my life:

  • My workload at my job doubled.
  • My husband, Chris, got a new job across the country.
  • We put our house on the market.
  • We spent a nearly 2 months living thousands of miles apart.
  • We moved into a tiny studio apartment with no windows.
  • I started working from home.

Little by little, these changes to my familiar routine made me lonely, tired, uneasy, frazzled, and unable to take proper care of myself. I gained 15+ pounds in a few months, my skin broke out in pimples and rashes, and I was quick to get angry and snap at my husband.

Everything improved after we made another big move this month from the city to the suburbs. I gained something I didn’t realize I was missing:

Breathing space.

It seems so simple now. Every one of us needs space to feel like a whole person. We need room to move, to be ourselves, to appreciate life, to just BE.

Here’s a picture that sums up everything I had been missing:

This is our backyard. Seriously, this is my view from the balcony of our new apartment. There’s a duck pond literally steps from our door!

There are other ways I’ve gained breathing space from our new environment:

  • My office is its own room.
  • Our bedroom is its own room.
  • We have walk-in closets.
  • There are 6 windows and 2 full bathrooms.
  • I see grass, trees, and wildlife instead of concrete, traffic lights, and bums.
  • I hear honking geese instead of honking cars.
  • We can enjoy some privacy.

Breathing space is essential to living life to your fullest potential. Do you have enough breathing space? Would you recognize it if you didn’t?

Here are a few easy ways to find breathing space in your life:

At Home

  • Make the bathroom a sanctuary. Sometimes the bathroom is the only separate room in the home (believe me, I know). Paint the walls a soothing color; have a place for books and magazines; add scented candles, bubble bath, and flowers for a spa-like retreat.
  • Try reverse babysitting. Instead of hiring a babysitter to come over so you and your partner can go out, ask a friend to take the kids for an evening so you and your honey can have the house to yourselves. (Don’t forget to return the favor.)
  • Get out of the house. Sometimes there’s no peace at home, so visit someplace with a lot of open space: a library, park, conservatory, museum, bookstore, etc. Relax on a bench or comfy chair and breathe…

At Work

  • Claim your privacy. If you have your own office, shut the door for part of the day. Or put a “do not disturb” sign outside your cubicle.
  • Take a walk. Stroll outside during lunch or consider walking around the building every few hours.
  • Escape to your car. Do you work in an open office with rows of desks but no cubicle walls? *shudder* Sit in your car for 10 minutes and meditate, listen to music or an audiobook, or simply bask in the silence. It IS possible to find breathing space in a small space like a car!

At School

  • Choose an overlooked study spot. At the library, study on a seldom-visited floor. Pick a computer away from the main traffic areas, or select your books and then move to a deserted corner, even if it’s far away from where you found the books.
  • Find the scenic route. Universities usually have large parks, open areas, or “quads.” Take the path with the most trees and landscaping when you walk between classes instead of taking the direct route.
  • Make a personal time agreement. Create a schedule with your roommate to give each other 1 night a week away from your room or apartment. Perhaps you’ll get the place to yourself on Mondays and she’ll have it for herself on Thursdays.

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  1. xvavaveganx on December 19, 2011 at 10:34 am

    Your home is really beautiful. I hope that you and Chris enjoy all of the happiness in the world there. Great advice as well, especially for someone like me that gets stressed and overwhelmed quite a bit 🙂 Glad to see you back!

  2. Cara on December 6, 2011 at 5:44 pm

    What solid advice, and I’m so glad you have found your breathing space! I particularly like the walking advice for office dwellers. Whenever I feel overwhelmed, I like to take a spin around my building just to get some fresh air and Vitamin D (sunshine) since my floor has no windows, kinda like your old apartment. Welcome back!

  3. Anna on December 4, 2011 at 8:32 am

    Hey Sage! It’s good to have you back- it’s been quite over two weeks you know and I kept on checking back on a regular basis afterwards. Btw, why did you move over to WordPress? I was considering many things for my blog’s future but haven’t considered moving the platform (yet).

    How has life been treating you? I can’t imagine living In studio with no sunlight so I’m glad the suburbs give you that breathing space we all need from time to time.

  4. Michelle on December 4, 2011 at 2:14 am

    Great post- some lovely ideas here.


  5. Tinfoil Tiaras on November 29, 2011 at 2:46 pm

    Sage you’re back and I’m glad to hear you’ve managed to acquire much needed breathing space! We must be in the same mind space because I just wrote about the challenges of living in a one bdr condo with no personal space. I love your suggestions and your backyard is gorgeous, very zen and peaceful. I hope the move went well and I’m glad to see you back in the blogosphere 🙂

    • sweetandsage on November 29, 2011 at 3:28 pm

      I know! After the longest break EVER, I’m finally back. I missed blogging but I really needed time to handle the move, and then Chris got sick, work got busy, etc etc etc.

      I moved over to WordPress too. I’m still figuring it out, so my blog might look a little wonky for a while. But I’m glad to be back! 🙂