Melike Hussein, founder of BreathZone

As part of our new series throwing a spotlight on women making a difference in the world of wellbeing, Melike Hussein, founder of BreathZone, shares her journey from corporate finance to being a holistic breathwork coach and meditation teacher…

After 15 years as a chartered accountant, my body decided one day that enough was enough. It was in 2015 and I was working as a finance director in an international company. Suddenly, just thinking about heading to the office caused my body to shake uncontrollably. I couldn’t even call out for help. It left me with partial paralysis.

Healing through breathwork

I was signed off work with stress and tried every therapy but nothing helped. Breathwork was the only thing that truly made a difference. It was a recommendation and from the very first try, I knew it was the perfect tool for me. This is because it delivered the type of solution needed at work and in my daily life.

My decision to train as a certified conscious breathing coach came as the result of the astounding transformation in my own health, wellbeing and mental performance. Decade-long ailments I’d experienced, such as insomnia, panic attacks and mental fatigue, all completely disappeared within a relatively short space of time.

Drawing on my experiences as a nurse

I’d started my working life as a nurse, so am uniquely placed to help others. I left nursing in 1997 when I made the decision to move to a career in a finance instead with more lucrative earning potential. At the time, I thought the level of one’s earning was the mark of success.

But now, my background in nursing is immensely helpful in two areas. One, I have a greater understanding of the complexities of the human body and ensuring client’s safety. Two, I continue to learn and grow by keeping up with research and scientific developments – some of which is a lot of medical jargon. This is where having a medical background is invaluable.

‘Thanks to breathwork, decade-long ailments I’d experienced, such as insomnia, panic attacks and mental fatigue, all completely disappeared within a relatively short space of time.’

From a chartered accountant to a breathwork coach

Leaving my finance career behind was both an easy and difficult decision. It was an easy decision, because I was leaving it to train and gain expertise in two modalities that completely transformed my health and wellbeing. I had no doubt that retraining and embarking on a holistic health pathway was the right decision. The astounding changes I had been witnessing, even in someone like me with a medical background, were impossible to ignore.

It was also a hard decision, because I loved my job in finance, enjoyed the mental challenges and had worked so hard for my success. Saying goodbye to it all was difficult.

The beginning of BreathZone

I launched BreathZone in 2018 to bring conscious breathing and mindfulness under one umbrella. I also wanted to bring my background in medicine and scientific knowledge into the provision of holistic health services.

Personally, I think we are moving to an era of disease prevention. People are getting more savvy about their health and want to take precautions to have a healthy body and mind as long as possible. Holistic health practices have a lot to offer in disease prevention.

But in my opinion, delivering safe and science-backed holistic health tools will be immensely helpful in building credibility for and ensuring the public receptivity to such practices. This is where I believe bringing my medical background and knowledge, and incorporating the latest developments in science are crucial.

‘Delivering safe and science-backed holistic health tools will be immensely helpful in building credibility for and ensuring the public receptivity to such practices.’

Combining mindfulness and breathwork

I created Transformational Conscious Breathing to be a complete toolkit for anyone to use. It combines practical conscious breathing and mindfulness exercises. It’s different to other breathwork practices in two main ways. First, it’s combination of breathwork and mindfulness within the same modality.

Second, the focus of breathwork is building the right foundation, which is to help people naturally breathe properly through their diaphragm. Breathwork is the most effective and readily available tool to turn stress into calm, or mental fatigue into energy.

However, unless you cultivate awareness of the autopilot of your mind and develop tools to rationally control it, you won’t address the underlying causes of stress and other unwanted experiences. This is where mindfulness is key. Consistent and repeated practice is very important. I recommend 20 minutes of practice a day.

However, the beauty of this method is many of the exercises in the toolkit can be done in a matter of minutes as part of one’s daily routine. You could do them while still in bed as you wake up, working, cooking and even as you are waiting for the kettle to boil. These minutes add up and without even noticing, you are already practicing throughout the day, remaining in control whatever the day may throw at you and being present.

Prioritising self-care every single day

I make self-care a non-negotiable part of my everyday life. Running your own business can be challenging as you need to do everything, from marketing and HR to finance. This puts immense pressure on your most precious resource – time.

Often, business owners let go of the things that help sustain their energy, joy and wellbeing, and divert the time to the needs of their business. I did this in the early days of BreathZone and quickly discovered that diverting time from self-care to business is a false economy. It is akin to trying to give from an empty cup. We cannot give to our business and clients when our cup is empty.

I have a daily self-care practice, which includes breathwork, meditation and mindfulness, and reflective journalling. However, I structure it in such a way that it fits in with my hectic life with each practice taking no more than five minutes.

Quick breathwork techniques to try throughout the day

1-minute balancing breath

  • Take a moment to allow your body to relax, drop your shoulders and relax your face.
  • Inhale through the nose to the count of five.
  • Exhale through the mouth to the count of five.
  • Repeat for five more rounds or as needed.
  • Tip: As you mentally count your breath, go at your own pace and let your breath flow with ease.

1-minute mini meditation

  • Find a comfortable seated position with your feet firmly on the ground.
  • Take a moment to allow your body to relax, drop your shoulders and relax your face.
  • Place your hand on your belly, just under the ribcage.
  • Focus all your attention on the movement of your belly – gentle rising on inhale and falling on the exhale.
  • Repeat for 10 more breaths or as needed.

Returning to the office? Click here for our top tips on managing ‘back to work’ anxiety.