Many of us dislike engaging in conflict, having difficult conversations or tackling dreaded tasks. Yet there's no escaping these circumstances from time to time — either personally or professionally. On one occasion or another, situations will call for us to take action.

It's been my experience that under these conditions, our imaginations often get the better of us. We expect that if the boss calls or emails asking for a meeting that bad news awaits. Our first reaction is to stall a response, hoping we will delay the pain we are sure awaits us.

Yet avoidance merely creates more stress and increases our anxiety. We cash in on momentary relief and instead sign on for long-term anxiety with increasing intensity.

Since we experience anxiety on a daily basis to varying degrees, it makes sense to find a solution. And there is a simple one we often forget to turn to: breathing.

In Eastern traditions, the breath is seen as a way to return to one's self. For centuries, Zen masters have been using and teaching simple breathing techniques to clear the mind and restore our sense of calm.

So whenever you feel that knot in your stomach because of a negative situation, follow these simple steps:

  • Take a deep breath through your nose and count to seven during your inhale.
  • At number seven, hold your breath for five counts.
  • Then exhale slowly and fully for seven counts.
  • Repeat three times.

This 7-5-7 cycle takes about a minute. If anxiety persists, try another round of deep breathing.

The result should be a quieter mind and negative thoughts should be either distant or nonexistent.

Now that you are calm, it's time to tackle the demon that awaits. Simply ask yourself: How can I solve the problem in the most effective manner possible?

Write down all answers that come to you without censorship or judgment. Then set the list aside. Take a walk, do another round of breathing — anything that will allow you to return to the solutions with fresh eyes.

With the simple activation of conscious breathing, anxiety should be just a fleeting visitor in your life, only arising to remind you that a task is at hand one that you can conquer with the simplicity of a deep breath.