I have breathing mantras, they go like this: Inhale – I will not strangle my children. Exhale – I will not kill my husband. Inhale – I will not flip off my boss and quit my job today. Exhale – I will not hire an Uber to drive me a very long distance, one way.

I breathe, because I can. I’m not talking about involuntary breathing, I’m talking about being conscious of how much is going in and out, and I’m-not-hyperventilating type of breathing. I breathe because it slows my heart, steadies my mind and balances my thoughts. Mindful breathing keeps me from acting on the urge to punch someone, or from melting down in a stressful situation. When I listen to my breath I know where I am, who I am, and what I need to accomplish.

My mother died at 70 primarily of lung cancer, my father at 75 from COPD. I am conscious of using my lungs to their full potential, grateful for their strength and how they fill and expand like well oiled accordions. When I am consciously focused on breathing, I can push my breath from my pelvis up through my belly and into my lungs, across my collar bones and straight up my throat to the crown of my head. I challenge that breath to get into the dark corners of my joints and crevices, places where emotional cobwebs get stuck, and clear those spaces out.

Then I release that air, slow, even and long enough to empty every corner of my soul, removing the unwanted energy and things that no longer serve me. All up and out in one powerful exhale. And I repeat this, again and again, as much as I need in that moment, until my mind and heart are clear and centered, ready to take on whatever comes next. Until no one close to me is in any danger while in my presence.

As women, we are multitaskers, conflict resolvers, family connectors. Our lives are spent negotiating through childbirth and making satisfactory school lunches, handling discipline and healing heartbreaks, making the bread in the kitchen and the dough at the office.We do a lot of things that can tighten our chests and shorten our breath, distracting us from our capabilities. With the ability to use breath in this way, I can work through challenges, strategize how to handle problems, and embrace my strength and ability.

Breathing brings us back to where we belong. The power of breath makes me stronger. It makes women stronger. Together, we can breathe through anything.