Mindful Breathing to the Rescue

This has been another consecutive week of travel for me, and we (my family) are all looking forward to the end of it. Most notably in recent weeks, my rushing around and inability to focus on anything for a decent period of time have worsened.

I have been able to continue regular workouts, albeit the ones in my hotel room aren’t nearly as intense as my time in the CrossFit box, but it’s something – and that’s good enough for now.  But exercise, sleep, and plant-based eating haven’t been enough to fill my reserves in the face of continued work stress.  What I have been missing is the peace of mind and presence from quieting the chatter in my mind, being able to take a break from the constant go.

If you do not currently practice yoga or meditation, then I encourage you to try mindful breathing.  Mindful IMG_3872breathing is simple – focus your mind only on your breath, slowing your breath down, fully inflating your lungs by expanding your belly, and completed exhaling each breath.  It may be helpful to slowly count during each inhale and exhale.  Each time your mind wanders, bring it back to your breath and do so without judgement.  The godfather of Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction, John Kabat-Zinn, likens mindfulness to a muscle that has to be stretched and used regularly to grow stronger.

Since I had let my mindful breathing practice lapse, I started with a goal of 5 minutes two times a day, first thing in the morning and in the afternoon or early evening.  You may want to start with 2 minutes a day or 5 deep breaths whenever you feel overwhelmed.  Whatever your goal is, start with something that seems on the easy side of realistic.  To make my 10 min/day happen, I set my alarm 5 minutes earlier and mark time in my calendar for the afternoon slot.  I always set the timer on my phone for 5 minutes so I am not anxious about losing track of time when I’m supposed to be focusing on my breath.

I always feel calmer and more centered when the timer goes off, and I pause for another minute or so to hold onto that feeling and visualize how I can use that presence over the next few hours.  Sometimes I add a few more minutes at the end of the 5 minutes, and that feels great too.  Once my habit of mindful breathing is firmly re-established, I plan to add another session or add a few more minutes each day.  It has become more routine for me to now feel myself tensing up or realize that I’m shallow breathing and take a few deep breaths throughout my day.  That connection alone has been valuable, not to mention the reduced mind chatter and constant rushing.

To help you carve out a few minutes each day for mindful breathing, here are the easy-to-reheat meals I made over the weekend for my family to enjoy during the week:

Red Beans and Rice

Serves 4

1 onion, diced

1/2 c frozen stoplight peppers, diced

1 T minced garlic

2 cans (or 3 c) kidney beans, rinsed and drained

15 oz fire roasted tomatoes

6 c cooked brown rice

1 T thyme

1 T oregano

salt and pepper to taste


hot sauce

non-GMO ‘sausages’ cut into half-coins

Saute the peppers, onions, and garlic for at least 5 min.  Add the remaining ingredients, cover, and reduce heat.  Stir every few minutes and serve any time after 10 min, when everything should be heated through.

Black Bean Burgers (adapted from Fat Free Vegan)

Makes 10 slider sized burgers

1/3 c frozen stoplight peppers, diced

1/3 c diced onion

1 1/2 c (or 1 can) black beans, drained and rinsed

1 c cooked brown rice

1/4 t cumin

1 t chili powder

2 T ground flax seeds

1 T potato starch

Saute the peppers and onions in a little water until softened.  Combine with rest of ingredients in a food processor and pulse until combined.  Add salt or salt-like seasoning if needed.  The mixture doesn’t form well into patties, so use a spoon to place one scoop of the mix into a nonstick pan or cast iron skillet preheated over medium heat.  Gently press down with the spoon to form a patty.  After 2 to 3 minutes, flip the sliders and cook on the other side.  Transfer to a cooling rack.  When ready to reheat, bake the sliders in the oven at 350′ for about 15 minutes.  Top with avocado, lettuce, and tomato.

Butternut Black Bean Chipotle Chili

1 c frozen stoplight peppers, diced

1 yellow onion, diced

1 T minced ginger

1 1/2 T minced garlic

1 t cumin

1 large butternut squash, peeled and cubed

3 c (or 2 cans) black beans, rinsed and drained

28 oz fire roasted tomatoes

2 c vegetable broth


cooked brown rice

1-2 chipotle chilis in adobe sauce

Saute the peppers, onion, ginger, garlic and cumin in a little water to prevent sticking.  Once the peppers have softened, add the squash, beans, tomatoes and broth.  Reduce heat and cover until squash is tender.  Mix the cooked brown rice in at the end or serve over the rice.  If using the chipotle chili(s), finely dice or puree with vegetable broth before adding to the chili.

Alternatively, throw all raw ingredients into the slow cooker and cook on low for 6 to 8 hours.  Mix the cooked brown rice in at the end or serve chili over the rice.

This recipe was adapted from one generously shared by Katie Magee, who used sweet potatoes in the original.  Sweet potatoes also work fabulously here!


In planning these meals, I intentionally used similar ingredients to ease my weekend meal prep.  I made a large batch of black beans and a large batch of brown rice.  As the price of peppers has further increased over the winter, I’ve been taking advantage of frozen stoplight pepper strips.  Frozen veggies are much, much better than no veggies!!

In addition to these recipes, the family also enjoyed Tempeh Oat Loaf with roasted potatoes and meatball subs made with frozen non-GMO “meatballs” briefly cooked in marinara sauce and topped with vegan “cheese” shreds.  They were on their own for sides, but it does appear from the extra space in the freezer that some veggies were consumed!



Photo Credit:

View from Hanging Rock NC: simplyeatplants