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Published on December 31, 2019

7 Tips for Coping with Stress Effectively

7 Tips for Coping with Stress Effectively

Stress can happen to anyone, anywhere at anytime.

It can be mild or intense. It can be short or long lived.

It can lead to panic, sadness or inability to handle things. Or it can be dealt with effectively.

You don’t have to let stress control you. Instead, coping with stress is possible.

“The greatest weapon against stress is our ability to choose one thought over another.” – William James

Stress can either define your life experiences or be something that motivates you. Instead of worrying all the time, use that energy for positive motivation.

Stress can stop you, if you let it. You only need to let life happen and learn to go with the flow in order to cope with stress. Give up the notion of total control because it does not exist.

When stress happens, we are either pushed forward or stopped in our tracks. We either let it help us rise or let it sink us down. The choice between the two are in coping skills.

You can be having a great day and suddenly something happens that lets you down, and suddenly the whole day is ruined. You will rise though, if you learn that stress is a part of life, and that you don’t need to control it. You only need to find a way to cope with it.

Some signs of stress are elevated heart beat, sometimes leading to panic or panic attacks. Sweaty palms, fear rising, catastrophizing the worst will happen, feeling pressure, having a timeline to solve your problem or complete a task… This is how we start to experience stress.

People and circumstances can stress us out. It can be daunting to solve every problem on your plate. But it’s possible to solve some problems effectively with coping skills so you can tackle that to do list. It’s not possible to solve problems WITH stress. In fact, stress can hinder us from success when we let it take over. You need tools to do the job well done. These tools are helpful when dealing with stress to overcome difficult situations.

You only need to learn to cope, not control it.

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Some effective ways to cope with stress are the following:

1. Break down Your Task or To-Do List

The first step towards clearing it is writing it down, so you create a to do list. But what do you do once you get there? Do you start with the easiest task and work your way to the most difficult? Do you start with the most urgent or the most important or a mix of both?

Breaking down your task list can help you cope with stress. You will find that people, circumstances will change that lift the stress from you, but your attitude in any situation is what keeps stress truly at bay.

Start with prioritizing your task list. What are your long-term goals? What satisfies most of that for you? You can decide to act on tasks that help you in the longterm the most while also tackling the urgent, right here right now needs of your life.

Mind Tools says:[1]

“With effective time management, you can take control of your time and get on top of your to do list.”

Breaking down your task management is about what is most important to you in life and your day to day functioning:

  • Write down all your tasks that need done, in no particular order.
  • Color code, flag or whatever method you like-urgency and importance in a ranking order that you decide.
  • Take out a calendar or planner and plot out when you will tackle each task.
  • Prioritize each day what you need to get down and follow this method.
  • Start over and do it all over again regularly.

A to-do list is more than just task and time management. It is about priorities. When you know your priorities, you are less stressed about choices you have to make.

Learn more tips about using to-do lists here: The Right Way to Make a To Do List and Get Things Done

2. Find a Good, Therapeutic Outlet

When you find an outlet, it can include therapy, but it also can be coping skills that you pick and enjoy. It’s something that lets out the stress.

Exercise, journaling, talking to someone or to a therapist, listening to music, meditation, cooking, relaxing in general, reading a good book, watching a movie or TV show… What you do is up to you.

Once you pick a coping skill, your stress will decrease and your ability to COPE will increase. You will then be able to perform the task at hand. You will be able to use your coping skills to achieve your goals. Once you have less stress, you can resume working.

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You can decide what you do with your time, even when stress is daunting and big. You can decide to spend your time your way. You can rest. You can recharge. You can find strength again when you use your coping skills. You just need an outlet for the stress.

You can’t just push through everything in life and decide not to feel. Let yourself feel. Feeling is not the enemy. Lack of focus is. You can be focused on a task ahead and still decide to feel. You can even use that feeling to motivate you. The key is to let it out.

Stress management is not just about overcoming stress. It’s using it. It’s not letting it control you. It’s effectively coping you so you can still breathe.

3. Schedule Breaks for Yourself

It’s very important to recharge. When you are creating a to do list, you need to ask yourself, “When is the best time for me to recharge and relax so I don’t let this overwhelm me?” This isn’t the same as procrastination. You give yourself a timer and let yourself rest when you set it.

Scheduling breaks in your day is something many of us forget to do.

According to Harvard Business Review,[2] it says that you should trying even switching up tasks to keep yourself from being overwhelmed and burned out when you are problem solving.

“When you’re working on tasks that would benefit from creative thinking, consciously insert breaks to refresh your approach. Set them at regular intervals- use a timer if you have to.”

It says that this may be indeed the best use of your time, to schedule breaks, to get better results.

Be guilt free in your pursuit of the best problem solving skills. Taking breaks will actually enhance your skills leaving you with less stress overall.

4. Meditate to Release Tension in Body, Mind and Soul

Meditation and mindfulness can help in each circumstance with learning how to use our inner strength to grow and give. We can learn from meditation that life is a current, and we can either swim with it or get pulled under. This is very important to note when we are stressed.

Meditation can help us release stress sometimes more than anything else. It brings us very much into the present. Worrying is about the future; stress is an emotional response to worry and pressure that tends to feel very negative. But we can dial it down with meditation so that we can deal.

Mindfulness is about using the present moment to the best of your ability. You can be meditative in it with the simplest of tasks. It’s grounding yourself with each moment in terms of using the task at hand to be present.

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You can be cooking, washing your hands, eating, or walking outside. All you need to do is breathe and be in the moment in order to meditate.

It can even be as simple as releasing tension in your body. Unclench your jaw. Release your shoulders from your ears. Release all tension from your whole body by thinking of each body part’s release. Start with your head and go down to your feet and toes. Do it as often as you like.

Learn how to meditate easily: Meditation for Beginners: How to Meditate Deeply and Quickly

5. Be Grateful

Stop what you’re doing. Think about what you still have. Rather than seeing the odds as against you, see what you have already done and already have. This will help you to move forward.

You are still alive. You still have tools that you can use to help you. You have resources. You have people; you are not alone. You have abilities. Where you lack, you can ask for help. So you only need to be grateful.

It doesn’t mean you discount the pain you have had in any situation, but you acknowledge what you can do with it. You are not over. This stress will not define you or decide for you. You can use what you have right here and right now to make a difference.

Write a gratitude list daily. Even if you only think of three things to be grateful for, that is more than enough. Remind yourself of this list of gratitude to help you cope with the stress you feel. Through realizing what you still have, you can find better solutions and release the stress from overtaking you.

Your thoughts have power. Using gratitude to defeat stress is something you can do daily. You can actually train your brain to be more grateful by coming up with at least three things daily that you are grateful for.

6. Find the Motivation

Finding motivation for many can be difficult. But you’re not like other people. You are the only you in this whole universe. That means what motivates you may be different from what motivates someone else. You may decide to pursue things other won’t agree with or understand. That’s okay. The key is that you have decided something. And that often comes with a lot of stress.

When you are stuck, it’s up to you to find the motivation. You can let situations define you or you can reclaim your story. You can stand for something. You can do a social good. You can help a friend. You can release the negativity by focusing on the positive. It’s up to you. You have control here. You have some power. You have some say.

According to Barking Up the Wrong Tree, a science based answers and expert insight blog that has been featured on The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Wired Magazine and Time Magazine, there are 3 steps to motivating yourself backed by science:[3]

They are getting positive, rewarding yourself and getting peer pressure are the best ways to motivate yourself.

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It also says,

“Think of yourself as a motivated, productive person. Research shows how people feel about themselves has a huge effect on success.”

When you decide to be positive, you make a decision to not let the stress or negativity weigh you down or define you. Reward yourself because you deserve goodness and you deserve happiness and you deserve to be recognized for your work in life.

Lastly, getting peer pressure is about letting others in on your goals. That helps you stay motivated and stay moving forward.

7. Ask for Help

When you are struggling, you don’t have to have all the answers. You just need a healthy outlook and to let input in. You will be better with stress when you have others to help you. Even if it is a professional such as a therapist or an expert such as someone in your field, or a friend, or family member you trust, all that matters is that you’re not afraid to need help.

Perfection is something we all strive for, but we can’t have because it doesn’t truly exist. We can get close to it, but there’s always a way to do something better that will be found out in the future.

So, ask for help. Ask for people’s input. Don’t be afraid to get feedback. Maybe there’s a more effective way to do something. That will lead to less stress and more productivity.

If you find it difficult to ask for help, these tips can help: How to Ask for Help When You Feel Silly to Do So

Final Thoughts

Stress is unavoidable. It will always be present in our most trying times. You can either learn to cope with it or let it ruin you.

It doesn’t have to control you in the way it has been. You can make the change today, right now to take your power back. These 7 tips for coping with stress effectively can do just that.

Good luck!

More Tips on Stress Relief

Featured photo credit: Doğukan Şahin via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Mind Tools: Time Management
[2] Harvard Business Review: To Be More Creative, Schedule Your Breaks
[3] Barking up the Wrong Tree: How To Motivate Yourself: 3 Steps Backed By Science

More by this author

Sarah Browne

Sarah is a speaker, writer and activist who promotes the end of stigma for mental health.

How to Control Anxiety and Calm Your Anxious Thoughts How to Get Rid of Sleep Anxiety and Insomnia How to Practice Meditation for Anxiety and Stress Relief How to Be True to Yourself and Live the Life You Want 5 Ways to Help You Get Through Depression

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Last Updated on March 30, 2020

Why You’re Feeling Tired All the Time (And What to Do About It)

Why You’re Feeling Tired All the Time (And What to Do About It)

Feeling tired all the time?

Have you ever caught yourself nodding off when you’re watching TV, listening to someone drone on during a meeting or even driving a car?

I know I have, especially when I worked 70 hours per week as a High-Tech Executive.

Feeling tired all the time may be more widespread than you think. In fact, two-fifths of Americans are tired most of the week.[1]

If you’re tired of feeling tired, then I’ve got some great news for you. New research is helping us gain critical insights into the underlying causes of feeling tired all the time.

In this article, we’ll discuss the latest reasons why you’re feeling tired all the time and practical steps you can take to finally get to the bottom of your fatigue and feel rested.

What Happens When You’re Too Tired

If you sleep just two hours less than the normal eight hours, you could be as impaired as someone who has consumed up to three beers.[2] And you’ve probably experienced the impact yourself.

Here are some common examples of what happens when you’re feeling tired:[3]

  • You may have trouble focusing because memory and learning functions may be impaired within your brain.
  • You may experience mood swings and an inability to differentiate between what’s important and what’s not because your brain’s neurotransmitters are misfiring.
  • You may get dark circles under your eyes and/or your skin make look dull and lackluster in the short term and over time your skin may get wrinkles and show signs of aging because your body didn’t have time to remove toxins during sleep.
  • You may find it more difficult to exercise or to perform any type of athletic activity.
  • Your immune system may weaken causing you to pick up infections more easily.
  • You may overeat because not getting enough sleep activates the body’s endocannabinoids even when you’re not hungry.
  • Your metabolism slows down so what you eat is more likely to be stored as belly fat.

Are you saying that feeling tired can make me overweight?

Unfortunately, yes!

Feeling tired all the time can cause you to put on the pounds especially around your waist. But it is a classic chicken and egg situation, too.

Heavier people are more likely to feel fatigued during the day than lighter ones. And that’s even true for overweight people who don’t have sleep apnea (source: National Institutes of Health).

Speaking of sleep apnea, you may be wondering if that or something else is causing you to feel tired all the time.

Why Are you Feeling Tired All the Time?

Leading experts are starting to recognize that there are three primary reasons people feel tired on a regular basis: sleep deprivation, fatigue and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS).

Here’s a quick overview of each root cause of feeling tired all of the time:

  1. Tiredness occurs from sleep deprivation when you don’t get high-quality sleep consistently. It typically can be solved by changing your routine and getting enough deep restorative sleep.
  2. Fatigue occurs from prolonged sleeplessness which could be triggered by numerous issues such as mental health issues, long-term illness, fibromyalgia, obesity, sleep apnea or stress. It typically can be improved by changing your lifestyle and using sleep aids or treatments, if recommended by your physician.
  3. Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) is a medical condition also known as Myalgic Encephalomyelitis that occurs from persistent exhaustion that doesn’t go away with sleep.

The exact cause of CFS is not known, but it may be due to problems with the immune system, a bacterial infection, a hormone imbalance or emotional trauma.

It typically involves working with a doctor to rule out other illnesses before diagnosing and treating CFS.[4]

Always consult a physician to get a personal diagnosis about why you are feeling tired, especially if it is a severe condition.

Feeling Tired vs Being Fatigued

If lack of quality sleep doesn’t seem to be the root cause for you, then it’s time to explore fatigue as the reason you are frequently feeling tired.

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Until recently, tiredness and fatigue were thought to be interchangeable. Leading experts now realize that tiredness and fatigue are different.

Tiredness is primarily about lack of sleep.

But fatigue is a perceived feeling of being tired that is much more likely to occur in people who have depression, anxiety or emotional stress and/or are overweight and physically inactive (source: Science Direct).

Symptoms of fatigue include:

  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Low stamina
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Anxiety
  • Low motivation

These symptoms may sound similar to those of tiredness but they usually last longer and are more intense.

Unfortunately, there is no definitive reason why fatigue occurs because it can be a symptom of an emotional or physical illness. But there are still a number of steps you can take to reduce difficult symptoms by making a few simple lifestyle changes.

How Much Sleep Is Enough?

The number one reason you may feel tired is because of sleep deprivation which means you are not getting enough high-quality sleep.

Most adults need 7 to 9 hours of high-quality, uninterrupted sleep per night. If you’re sleep deprived, the amount of sleep you need increases.

So, quantity and quality do matter when it comes to sleep.

The key to quality sleep is being able to get long, uninterrupted sleep cycles throughout the night. It typically takes 90 minutes for you to reach a state of deep REM sleep where your body’s healing crew goes to work.

Ideally, you want to get at least 3 to 4 deep REM sleep cycles in per night. That’s why it’s so important to stay asleep for 7 or more hours.

Research also shows that people who think they can get by on less sleep don’t perform as well as people who get at least seven hours of sleep a night[5] So, you should definitely plan on getting seven hours of deep restorative sleep every night.

If you are not getting 7 hours of high-quality sleep regularly, then sleep deprivation is most likely reason you feel tired all the time.

And that is good news because sleep deprivation is much simpler and easier to address than the other root causes.

It’s also a good idea to rule out sleep deprivation as the reason why you are tired before moving on to the other possibilities such as fatigue or Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, which may require a doctor for diagnosis and treatment.

4 Simple Changes to Reduce Fatigue

Personally, I’m a big believer in upgrading your lifestyle to uplift your life. I overcame chronic stress and exhaustion by making these four changes to my lifestyle:

  1. Eating healthy, home-cooked meals versus microwaving processed foods or eating out
  2. Exercising regularly
  3. Using stressbusters
  4. Creating a bedtime routine to sleep better

So, I know it is possible to change your lifestyle even when you’re working crazy hours and have lots of family responsibilities.

After I made the 4 simple changes in my lifestyle, I no longer felt exhausted all of the time.

In addition, I lost two inches off my waist and looked and felt better than ever.

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I was so excited that I wanted to help others replace stress and exhaustion with rest and well-being, too. That’s why I became a Certified Holistic Wellness Coach through the Dr. Sears Wellness Institute.

Interestingly enough, I discovered that Dr. Sears recommends a somewhat similar L.E.A.N. lifestyle:

  • L is for Lifestyle and means living healthy including getting enough sleep.
  • E is for Exercise and means getting at least 20 minutes of exercise a day ideally for six days a week.
  • A is for Attitude and means thinking positive and reducing stress whenever possible.
  • N is for Nutrition and means emphasizing a right-fat diet, not a low-fat diet.

The L.E.A.N. lifestyle is a scientifically-proven way to reduce fatigue, get to the optimal weight and to achieve overall wellness.[6]

And yes, there does seem to be an important correlation between being lean and feeling rested.

But overall based on my personal experience and Dr. Sear’s scientific proof, the key to not feeling tired all of the time does seem to be 4 simple changes to your lifestyle.

L — Living Healthy

Getting enough high-quality sleep every day is the surefire way to help you feel less fatigued, more rested and better overall.

So, whether you’re sleep deprived or potentially suffering from fatigue or Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, you probably want to find a way to sleep better.

In fact, if you aren’t getting enough sleep, your body isn’t getting the time it needs to repair itself; meaning that if you are suffering from an illness, it’s far more likely to linger.

As unlikely as it sounds, though, fatigue can sometimes make it difficult to sleep. That’s why I’d recommend taking a look at your bedtime routine before you go to bed and optimize it based on sleep best practices.

Here are 3 quick and easy tips for creating a pro-sleep bedtime routine:

1. Unplug

Many of us try to unwind by watching TV or doing something on an iPhone or tablet. But tech can affect your melatonin production due to the blue light that they emit, fooling your body into thinking it’s still daytime.

So turn off all tech one hour before bed and create a tech-free zone in your bedroom.

2. Unwind

Do something to relax.

Use the time before bed to do something you find relaxing such as reading a book, listening to soothing music, meditating or taking an Epsom salt bath.

3. Get Comfortable

Ensure your bed is comfortable and your room is set up for sleep.

Make sure you room is cool. 60-68 degrees is the ideal temperature for most people to sleep.

Also, it’s ideal if your bedroom is dark and there is no noise.

Finally, make sure everything is handled (e.g., laying out tomorrow’s clothes) before you get into your nice, comfy bed.

If your mind is still active, write a to-do list to help you fall asleep faster.[7]

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Above all, be gentle with yourself and count your blessings, some sheep or whatever helps.

This article also offers practical tips to build a bedtime routine: How to Build a Good Bedtime Routine That Makes Your Morning Easier

E — Exercise

Many people know that exercise is good for them, but just can’t figure out how to fit it into their busy schedules.

That’s what happened in my case.

But when my chronic stress and exhaustion turned into systemic inflammation (which can lead to major diseases like Alzheimer’s), I realized it was time to change my lifestyle.

As part of my lifestyle upgrade, I knew I needed to move more.

My friends who exercise all gave me the same advice: find an exercise you like to do and find a specific time in your schedule when you can consistently do it.

That made sense to me.

So, I decided to swim.

I used to love to swim when I was young, but I hadn’t done it for years. The best time for me to do it was immediately after work, since I could easily get an open swim lane at my local fitness club then.

Also, swimming became a nice reason for me to leave work on time. And I got to enjoy a nice workout before eating dinner.

Swimming is a good way to get your cardio or endurance training. But, walking, running and dancing are nice alternatives.

So find an exercise you love and stick to it. Ideally, get a combination of endurance training, strength training and flexibility training in during your daily 20-minute workout.

If you haven’t exercised in a while and have a lot of stress in your life, you may want to give yoga a try because you will increase your flexibility and lower your stress.

A — Attitude

Stress may be a major reason why you aren’t feeling well all of the time. At least that was the case with me.

When I worked 70 hours per week as a High-Tech Executive, I felt chronically stressed and exhausted. But there was one thing that always worked to help me feel calmer and less fatigued.

Do you want to know what that master stress-busting technique was?

Breathing.

But not just any old breathing. It was a special form of deep Yogic breathing called the “Long-Exhale Breathing” or “4-7-8 breathing” or “Pranayama” in Sanskrit).

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Here’s how you do “Long-Exhale Breathing”:

  1. Sit in a comfortable position with your spine straight and your hand on your tummy (so you know you are breathing deeply from your diaphragm and not shallowly from your chest)
  2. Breathe in deeply and slowly from your diaphragm with your mouth closed while you count to 4 (ideally until your stomach feels full of air)
  3. Hold your breath while you count to 7 mentally and enjoy the stillness
  4. Breathe out through your mouth with a “ha” sound while you count to 8 (or until your stomach has no more air in it)
  5. Pause after you finish your exhale while you notice the sense of wholeness and relaxation from completing one conscious, deep, long exhale breath
  6. Repeat 3 times ensuring your exhale is longer than your inhale so you relax your nervous system

This type of “long-exhale breathing” is scientifically proven to reduce stress.

When your exhale is twice as long as your inhale, it soothes your parasympathetic nervous system, which regulates the relaxation response.[8]

Plus, this is a great technique for helping you get to sleep, too.

N — Nutrition

Diet is vital for beating fatigue – after all, food is your main source of energy.

If your diet is poor, then it implies you’re not getting the nutrients you need to sustain healthy energy levels.

Eating a diet for fatigue doesn’t need to be complicated, time-consuming though.

For most people, it’s just a case of swapping a few unhealthy foods for a few healthier ones, like switching from low-fiber, processed foods to whole, high-fiber foods.

Unless your current diet is solely made up of fast food and ready meals, adjusting to a fatigue-fighting diet shouldn’t be too much of a shock to the system.

Here’re 9 simple diet swaps you can make today:

  1. Replace your morning coffee with Matcha green tea and drink only herbal tea within six hours of bedtime.
  2. Add a healthy fat or protein to your any carb you eat, especially if you eat before bed. Please note that carb-only snacks lead to blood-sugar crashes that can make you eat more and they can keep you from sleeping.
  3. Fill up with fiber especially green leafy vegetables. Strive to get at least 25g per day with at least 5 servings (a serving is the size of your fist) of green vegetables.
  4. Replace refined, processed, low-fiber pastas and grains with zucchini noodles and whole grains such as buckwheat, quinoa, sorghum, oats, amaranth, millet, teff, brown rice and corn.
  5. Swap natural sweeteners for refined sugars and try to ensure you don’t get more than 25g of sugar a day if you are a woman and 30g of sugar a day if you are a man.
  6. Replace ice cream with low-sugar alternatives such as So Delicious Dairy-Free Vanilla Bean Coconut Ice Cream.
  7. Swap omega-6, partially-hydrogenated oils such as corn, palm, sunflower, safflower, cotton, canola and soybean oil for omega-3 oils such as flax, olive and nut oils.
  8. Replace high-sugar yoghurts with low-sugar, dairy-free yoghurts such as Kite Hill Plain Yoghurt with 1g sugar or Lifeway Farmer Cheese with 0g sugar.
  9. Swap your sugar-laden soda for sparkling water with a splash of low-sugar juice

Also, ensure your diet is giving you enough of the daily essential vitamins and minerals. Most of us don’t get enough Vitamin D, Vitamin B-12, Calcium, Iron and Magnesium. If you are low on any of the above vitamins and minerals, you may experience fatigue and low energy.

That’s why it’s always worth having your doctor check your levels. If you find any of them are low, then try to eat foods rich in them.

Alternatively, you might consider a high-quality multi-vitamin or specific supplement.

The Bottom Line

If you are tired of feeling tired, then there is tremendous hope.

If you are tired because you are not getting enough high-quality sleep, then the best remedy is a bedtime routine based on sleep best practices.

If you are tired because you have stress and fatigue, then the best remedy are four simple lifestyle changes including:

  • Enough High-Quality Sleep with Bedtime Routine
  • Regular Exercise You Love
  • Stress Reduction with Long-Exhale Breathing
  • Fatigue-Reducing Diet

Overall, adopting a healthier lifestyle Is the ideal remedy for feeling more rested and energized.

More Tips to Help You Rest Better

Featured photo credit: Cris Saur via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] YouGov: Two-fifths of Americans are tired most of the week
[2] National Safety Council: Is Your Company Confronting Workplace Fatigue?
[3] The New York Times: Why Are We So Freaking Tired?
[4] Mayo Clinic: Chronic fatigue syndrome
[5] Mayo Clinic: Lack of sleep: Can it make you sick?
[6] Ask Dr. Sears: The L.E.A.N. Lifestyle
[7] American Psychological Association: Getting a Good Night’s Sleep
[8] Yoga International: Learning to Exhale: 2-to-1 Breathing

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