Multi-Faith and Belief Chaplaincy, For All Faiths and None

Mind the GAP (Ground Attune Protect)

This article is by Dr Nicola James, Head of Listening Service. Introduction to a Portable Debriefing Method.

Sometimes we need to press ‘pause’ on the pace of life - times during the day when it’s important to take time out of time, debrief a little, reset and move on refreshed.


What it is

‘Mind the GAP’ is a portable, easy and inconspicuous method.

It’s based on scientific reality of the way our breathing profoundly affects our thinking and vice versa.


Why it is

When we take short shallow breaths we release less CO2.  The decrease in CO2 signals that we are in fright or flight mode. Adrenaline rushes through our body resulting in the symptoms associated with the parasympathetic response – sweating, tingling in toes and feet, shortness of breath, heart racing, nausea, dizziness and more panic and even panic attacks. It can be a vicious circle.  Let’s turn it into a virtuous one.


How it Works

First things first, breathe out.

If you take nothing else away from this please take

longer breaths OUT so that the mind gets the signal that all is calming.  It’s a well-known first aid for panic attacks, but also a lovely way to re-centre.

The method below helps return the mind home from panic to peace.


GAP Step One: Ground Yourself

Sit comfortably in your chair. Close your eyes. Feel its seat beneath you and the legs rooted in the floor beneath. Notice your spine upright against the back of the chair, the vertebrae like a pile of gold coins gently placed one on top of the other.   Feel your hands placed on your thighs and notice yourself relaxing.

Photograph of a young woman, sitting on a bench in a garden with her eyes closed.

The area round your chair is called the Breathing Square.

It is the Breathing Square of Calm.

Now the scientific Key: the portable and most important part.


GAP Step Two:  Attune

Notice your breath in and out. Follow it, do not force it.

As you do, encourage your breath to go more slowly out

And then let it fill slowly down to the bottom of your lungs.


Draw round the lines of the square in your mind’s eye.

As you draw round the four sides of the square say to yourself.


Side One

Breathe in for count of four:

1 Mississippi, 2 Mississippi, 3 Mississippi, 4 Mississippi


Side Two

Breathe out for count of eight:

1 Mississippi, 2M, 3 M, 4M, 5M, 6M, 7M, 8 Mississippi


Side Three

Breathe in for count of four:

1 Mississippi, 2 M, 3 M, 4 Mississippi


Side Four

Breathe out for count of eight:

1 Mississippi, 2M, 3M, 4M, 5M, 6M, 7M, 8 Mississippi


Go round the four sides of the square at least four times

Follow your breath as it slows. It will slow.


GAP Step Three: Protect Yourself

Still with eyes closed:

Take yourself gently out of the exercise, keeping your breathing quiet and slow still breathing out for longer than you breathe in.


Feel the chair beneath you, notice that the chair legs are rooted firmly on the ground.

Feel your spine and back on the chair and your hands resting.

In your mind’s eye begin to picture the room around you.

Using your five senses one by one become aware of the room

See it, hear it, feel it, smell it, taste it.


Before you leave take some of the square of calm with you in your breath. It is your breath.


Slowly open your eyes.


Stand up carefully, move slowly and calmly into your day. Your decisions will be easier, your load lighter and your personal peace efficacious.