My Journey to Breathe

Blog Post – January 17, 2019

By Dr. Shaneil Ealy

At the beginning of 2018, I attended a vision board workshop. We were tasked with writing down goals for the year and all I could think about was that I wanted to “just breathe”. I wanted to simply exhale. I wanted to be more present. I wanted to slow down and enjoy the fruits of my labor. I had pursued a doctorate degree for 10 years while maintaining a demanding job at UCA, having two sons, supporting my husband in starting his own business and running a small catering business on the side. All I wanted to do was breathe. So, Felicia Johnson, the instructor of the workshop asked me what it meant to breathe. I couldn’t quite articulate it at the time. So she asked me what life looks like when I’m not breathing. Deep sigh … “Oh, that’s good,” I thought.

I had no idea how 2018 would challenge me, promote me, humble me and make me grieve. I had no idea how bad I would really need to breathe by the end of 2018. I used the word “breathe” as my mantra for the year. I placed the word in bold letters across my vision board. I created a bracelet with the word “breathe” and I wore it as a visual reminder to exhale often. I read articles, memes, blogs and anything I could get my hands on that related to breathing. Last fall, I even participated in an online Bible Study by Priscilla Shirer and the title was Breathe: Making room for Sabbath. So, here I am at the beginning of 2019 still learning what it means to breathe and disciplining myself to create breathing space.

Here’s what I have learned on my journey to breathe:

  1. Breathing room is the space or margin we create in our lives to rest.
    Rest is different for everyone. Your breathing room will provide space for you to meditate, worship, listen, read, create or just relax and rest.
  2. Taking time to rest does not mean you are lazy!
    Many women think if they aren’t busy meeting, creating, or producing that they are not effective or can be perceived as lazy. Resting provides just as much value to your life. I took the day off yesterday to celebrate my birthday- something I don’t think I have ever done. I felt so good just allowing myself a day to breathe and to enjoy whatever I wanted. I wish someone had told me to do this years ago!
  3. We sacrifice our breathing room for FOMO (fear of missing out).
    We compromise our time for ourselves to rest and rejuvenate because of our fear of missing something. We suffocate under responsibilities and expectations! We can’t miss the meeting, lunch, church service, game, we can’t unplug from social media, etc. because of fear of missing out or fear of what others may think. Practice saying, “No.” No is a complete sentence.
  4. Learn to savor the small things and small moments.
    I recently read an article about how to become more present. The author suggested that we set an alarm on our phones to remind us to pause and savor the small things throughout the day. You can close your eyes and think of one small thing you are grateful for. Or you can look around and notice one thing you are grateful for. It can be as simple as being grateful for the small heater that is keeping me warm in my office right now or to be surrounded by fifty shades of orange in my office because it just makes me smile.
  5. If you make the wrong choice, you can make another choice.
    Sometimes we obsess over decisions to the point of experiencing anxiety and restlessness. It’s okay. If you make the wrong choice the first time, you can make another choice. It’s that simple. Just breathe.
  6. Breathing room allows me to provide grace to others.
    When I have allowed myself some breathing space, I find that I am more patient with my sons, husband and everyone really. Because I’m not in a state of anxiousness and chaos, I think more clearly. I hear my thoughts and the deep desires of my heart. Oftentimes, I am just filled with so much gratitude that it opens my heart to give. Maybe it’s not monetary, maybe it’s sending a friend a “thinking of you” card or text.

While I would normally stress over having an odd number of points to share (Really?! 6 points instead of 5?), I am taking the time to just breathe. Feels good.

Enjoy your journey,







Dr. Shaneil Ealy
Associate Vice President
Outreach & Community Engagement