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Breathe, Author Q&A with Bonnie Gray

We are so excited to have Bonnie Gray with us again! We loved her book, Sweet Like Jasmine, and now, Breathe is being released (April 4, 2023 publishing). We talk all things wellness, stress, soul care, kingdom ambition and the new release, below. Thank you, Ms. Gray and ICON Media Group for making this interview possible! Make sure to get your copy of Breathe!

Modern Witnesses (“MW”): Hi Bonnie! It is an honor to have you back with us. We last had you on when you launched Sweet Like Jasmine. Your new book, Breathe, is all about entering into rest and stressing less. What inspired this project?

Bonnie Gray (“BG”): When I did interviews for my last book Sweet Like Jasmine, chronicling my journey to find my true worth, from brokenness to finding beauty – most people were interested in how I dealt with the trauma of emotional stress and how to deal with hard things in life. That’s when I knew I had to write a guidebook that shared the practical life-changing techinques and tools that helped me lower stress and anxiety, in order to face the challenges of modern life pressures.

More than millions of people struggle with anxiety, depression, and burnout. According to the CDC, a staggering 42 percent of Americans are grappling with mental health issues. It’s not only all over the news, that’s what I hear from women as a soul care coach. You’re probably seeing this in your social circles. So am I.

From the moment we wake up, we are inundated with noise, pressures, and expectations that wear us down. Especially as we move into life post- pandemic, each of us carries residual stress or trauma of some sort. Our emotions and physical limits were pushed past anything we’ve ever had to deal with. We’ve been strong, having survived the tornado of confusion, isolation, and loss. Many of us are dealing with profound grief, while others of us are just flat-out exhausted.

We are heroes when it comes to loving and caring for others. But why is it so hard to give ourselves permission to rest and refresh when we’re stressed and need it most? Perhaps we’ve always been the encourager, always the one responsible for taking care of others, and we’ve never felt the need to take care of your own mental health before now. Perhaps we didn’t feel comfortable sharing our needs, or maybe we just didn’t have time to figure it out, so we did what we have always done: we put our hearts to the side and carried on.

But here, today, perhaps for the first time ever, self-sufficient, strong women are wondering if it’s okay to talk about their diminished wellness. You wonder: What can I do to stop the stress?

“We are heroes when it comes to loving and caring for others. But why is it so hard to give ourselves permission to rest and refresh when we’re stressed and need it most?”

MW: I took your Soul Care Quiz – a free wellness assessment – to help women learn which of the four types of wellness they are missing the most (so cool, by the way!). What do you want women to walk away with from this assessment? Why was this an important tool to you?

    BG: So, many times, when we’re stressed, we just feel numb. It’s because we go into survival mode and focus on getting things done and just going through the motions. And we don’t even realize we’re stressed. Until our hair starts falling out – or we lie awake at night unable to sleep because we can’t turn off our brains– or start withdrawing and prefer being alone and we don’t know why. These are all symptoms that one of four areas of wellness are missing.

    So, by taking the Soul Care Quiz I created, you’ll get a free assessment on which area of wellness you’re missing the most: emotional, physical, spiritual, or social wellness. When you can focus on just the top area of need, you can focus on filling that need. You can start tackling those stressors and help lower stress, rather than being overwhelmed and not knowing what to do.

    MW: You write that self-care is biblical and for everyone. Sometimes, self-care advice and books on stressing less sort of assume people are self-employed or entrepreneurs (or living life with more flexibility than is real for the majority of people). What advice would you give to someone who is burnt out or stressed, working within a much larger system (like a doctor, attorney, teacher, or nurse)? Where should a person in this circumstance start?

    BG: As a career woman in corp who worked in tech for 15 years in Silicon Valley, I definitely understand the demands of working in a system whose priority is the bottom line: making money. It’s a blunt way to be honest: above the rhetoric of whatever goals a corporation wants to say is their mission, we just always remember OUR mission in life as ambassadors for Christ is different from any corporation or institutions’ mission.

      Whenever we are working in any industry, we need ambition to succeed within those measurements of success. But, did you know that in God’s Kingdom, we are also called to ambition? But, here’s the catch, the ambition that God invites us to pursue are DIFFERENT from the world’s ambitions!

      There are three ambitions that are given to us in the New Testament and one the three ambition God tells us pursue is REST:

      Rest as Ambition

      Rest. It sounds inactive, doesn’t it? I was surprised to find that rest is one of only three ambitions that God explicitly calls out in the Bible. Hesuchazo, the Greek word used for “quiet” and “rest,” is as important as the other two references to ambitions: preaching the gospel and pleasing God.

      Excel still more, and make it your ambition to lead a quiet life (1 Thessalonians 4:10-11 nasb). I realized that the more room I made to breathe and rest, the more I can bring God pleasure and more powerfully share the gospel with my family, friends, and strangers.

      Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden…Learn from Me…and you will find rest for your souls (Matthew 11:28-29 nkjv). The original Greek word for soul is psuché, which can also be translated as “your vital breath” and is the root word for psyche or psychology! This means taking action toward experiencing rest helps you come alive and revitalizes your soul.

      What makes your soul come alive? The activities that bring you rest and re-energize you are unique to your personality, preferences, interests, and dislikes. When God breathed his Spirit into your soul, He shaped a distinct identity in you that is motivated by your specific psyche—how you feel about yourself and how you experience the world. In Scripture, the soul is used to designate the seat of affections, your will, and your true self.

      So, now, having explained about the ambitions God calls us to puruse, I can answer your question on where a career woman can start?

      Self-care becomes soul-care when we practice wellness for the pursuit of refilling our tanks, so we can become the woman God designed for us to become: loving, joyful, caring, kind, gentle, faitful – you notice the fruits of the spirit in those qualities as a woman of faith? Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, faithfulness, and self-control. Those fruits – those qualities as a vibrant woman of faith – grow when we nurture the soil of our hearts, minds, and bodies. And THAT is what soul care is about.
      Once we understand the ambition of rest that God wants us to focus, then I believe each woman can be resourceful to prioritize wellness above any corporate mission or standards of “success”.

      There is a lot of soul searching involved to ask ourselves: “How much of the corporate ladder do I want to climb? At what cost to my soul, body, and emotions? How do I definite success? What kind of woman do I want to grow into and become, versus how much of my hours, energy, and time is focus on achieve the goals of my institution I’m working?”

      I like to ask myself and I guide my clients to imagine, “In five years, what am I going to regret not spending time on? In one year? In 10 years?” It is a fascinating thought exercise as we also do mind mapping and alos do some exercises to be adventurers and get in a “time-machine” exercise and look at what past experiences were draining vs. life-giving?

      Sometimes, we forget the lessons we’ve learned because we’re too heads down focused on what other people expect of us, and we lose ourselves in the process.

      I often like to encourage my soul care clients to apply their ingenuity and creativity towars their wellness with God, and then we get ltos and lots of brainstorming on how to prioritize inner success verse outer success. By the way, it didn’t come at the cost of my career – I was plenty of successful in my career in tech, while prioritizing my wellness. In fact, it gave me more energy, passion, joy and creativity, once I flipped the priority.

      “It’s a blunt way to be honest: above the rhetoric of whatever goals a corporation wants to say is their mission, we just always remember OUR mission in life as ambassadors for Christ is different from any corporation or institutions’ mission.”

      MW: You are the mom to two sons. What are ways in which moms can help prioritize and teach their children about mental health and self-care?

      BG: I’ve taught both my teenage sons a go-to really powerful soul care technique you can use in any situation to stop anxiety right away – to stop your body’s stress response & activate your body’s God’s-designed rest and relaxation response.

      It’s a simple practice called the Breath Prayer, that is one of 21 tools and techniques to lower stress, that I share in my book, “Breathe: 21 Days to Stress Less and Restore Chaos to Calm”.

      A Breath Prayer is a simple way to pray using the natural rhythm of your breathing to activate your body’s natural rest response, oxygenates your brain, releases tension, and reenergizes you. Now, breath prayers will oxygenate your soul with God’s peace and bring you calm.

      How to Pray a Breath Prayer

        1. Close your eyes and imagine yourself in a place that is peaceful. Is it the ocean? The woods? God is here with you.
        2. Inhale, whispering God’s name. Then, exhale a simple request, gratitude, or share how you feel.
          For example:
          Breathe in—. Jesus. Breathe out—Help me.
          Inhale: God Exhale: I’m tired.
        3. You can also meditate on a Bible verse. The Breath Prayer I want you to join me to practice right now is from “Cast all your cares on him because he cares for you” (1 Peter 5:7).
          I use this when I feel worried (and I’ve taught my sons to use this to calm anxiety before taking tests or for sleep).
          I cast all my cares upon you.
          Because you care for me.

        MW: On Day 9, you talk about the STOP method. Can you explain what the STOP method is and how it can help us?

        BG: STOP is a Soul Care Method for pausing to check in with yourself can reduce pain and stress.

        Jon Kabat-Zinn, creator of the Stress Reduction Clinic, developed a simple practice called STOP to relieve stress. I adapted this technique to center it on God’s lovingkindness. Use this method to relax into God’s peace and presence throughout your day.

        Stop. Whatever you’re doing, pause momentarily.
        Take a breath. Reconnect with the rhythms of your breathing. The breath is an anchor to God’s loving presence in the moment.
        Pray a breath prayer to exhale your stress to God and activate your body’s relaxation response.
        Observe. How do you feel? Do a quick body scan. Notice any tension. What emotions and thoughts are coming to mind? Tell Jesus what you observe.
        Proceed. Take action to adjust based on how you feel. Do something loving to your body or emotions. Inject more soul care into your day to counterbalance stress. Ask God to help you with whatever you need.
        Use STOP as a reminder to breathe deeply, drop your shoulders, and adjust your posture. If you’re hungry or thirsty, take a break to eat or get a drink of water. The more you STOP during the day, the more you re-engage with life and disengage from the habitual busyness of your mind.

        MW: You wrote “Forgiveness takes just one person, but reconciliation takes two.” Can you elaborate on that phrase?

        BG: This quote is based on the biblical principle for dealing with toxic relationships.

        We need to draw boundaries and for some, that might mean something as firm as no contact. For other, it will be a sliding scale of how much interaction, depending on the situation. But, the key truth is this:

        Reconciliation happens when both parties make amends to repair the trust that was broken, but sometimes, it may not be possible for a season— or longer.

        We can keep forgiving our family members or friends, even when changes aren’t made or reconciliation isn’t possible. We can put our trust in God’s timetable instead of our own.

        Forgiveness does not mean immediate reconciliation. Forgiving someone’s debt means no longer expecting it to be paid. Instead of waiting for the offending person to love us back or stop hurting us, we look to Jesus to restore what was lost to us.

        But forgiveness does not mean trust is freely granted or automatically restored. Forgiveness doesn’t mean removing boundaries if the other person’s unhealthy actions cause you emotional or physical harm. Forgiveness takes just one person, but reconciliation takes two.

        MW: What has been your spiritual focus in this busy season?

        BG: Two fold: First, enjoying creating memories with husband and my two sons who are in high school because my oldest is a junior in high school and my younger son Caleb is an eight grader, and I want to create as many experiences together, before he launches.

        Second, growing my soul care coaching ministry and podcast ministry to help younger women in their season of life, since I’m now healed from 10 years of overcoming anxiety and panic attachs stemming from childhood trauma of emotional abuse. I did that healing work as a working mom of two boys, so nothing is impossible when we have someone in our corner to help us focus on our wellness! I have a lot of encouragement I want to offer to help women blossom and flourish in who God created them to be.

        It isn’t as busy as it sounds, because when you find what you love doing, it isn’t busyness or toil, it’s just a joy and it becomes part of who you are and not about what you can do. So, those are my two passions in life, where I feel most alive, joy, and purpose!

        When you do things outside of what fills you up, that’s when busyness becomes a toil and draining. But, if you learn what lights you up and nurtures you, then you have a wellness to draw from! And that’s what I want to see women light up with: joy and energy and purpose!

        “When you do things outside of what fills you up, that’s when busyness becomes a toil and draining. But, if you learn what lights you up and nurtures you, then you have a wellness to draw from!”

        MW: You mention self-care rituals like walks, flowers and coffee. When did you start prioritizing self-care in your personal journey?

        BG: I started having panic attacks out of the blue, and I began to learn about how ignoring my heart and just focused on survival mode – and accomplishing a lot in my life (although all good things) – caused me to neglect the person that was hidden behind expectations, to do’s and getting things. I call it soul care and not self-care, because when we do it as a practice to return and nurture the true self who God created us to be – self-care becomes soul care.

        MW: What projects are you working on that we should keep on our radars?

        BG: I encourage everyone to take my Soul Care Quiz at that I created so women can learn what is the area of wellness they are missing most! Many times, we are in survival mode and we are numb to joy and we feel overwhelmed and drained. But, if we learn what is our top area of need, it makes it easier to take better care of ourvles and simpler! So, go to – and you can learn about my soul care coaching ministry and also The Soul Care School Community I’m creating to help women lower stress and flourish in wellness with Jesus. I certaintly didn’t heal on my own – it takes encouragement and someone to cheer you on! And that’s what I want to do for other women, so they can find their joy and flourish in who God created them to be!

        Thank you, Ms. Gray, for your time!! It is always a pleasure to have you on Modern Witnesses.

        Make sure to check out Breathe today!

        About the Author

        Bonnie Gray is a Soul Care mentor and the author of Breathe: 21 Days to Stress Less and Transform Chaos to Calm, Whispers of Rest, Finding Spiritual Whitespace and Sweet Like Jasmine, an ECPA 2022 Christian Book Award Finalist. Heaving healed from PTSD, Bonnie is passionate about helping thousands of listeners detox stress and flourish in emotional wellness with God’s love through soul care, Bible Study and prayer. Bonnie is a trusted voice writing for Proverbs 31, Christianity Today and RelevantMagazine. She is also the host of Breathe: The Stress Less Podcast. Take Bonnie’s Soul Care Quiz to learn which area of wellness you’re missing at She loves hiking and eating waffles with her husband and two teenage boys in Silicon Valley.

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