Take a mental health break, breathe deep
Depending on when you had your last appointment, your face may start to show worry and sadness. When we’ve flattened the curve, you can come see me and I will soften those worry lines. In the meantime, I want to share my favourite strategy so you can have moments of calm and serenity.
The last eight months have wreaked havoc on life as we know it. Our brains have been in fight-or-flight overdrive because there is an imminent danger—the rising number of COVID-19 cases. If you’ve made errors at work that leave you dumbfounded or you can’t get a good night’s sleep, that’s likely because your brain is in survival mode. That’s exactly how our bodies should respond to a threat.
The problem is this threat is not a one-time danger. It’s always there, causing low-grade anxiety in most of us. COVID-19 is not going away in the next week or month, but you can trick your mind and body into thinking it’s gone to give yourself a much-needed break. The way to tell your mind everything’s going to be all right is by taking deep breaths.
When you breathe deeply, with a slow, rhythmic inhalation and exhalation ratio, it stimulates your parasympathetic nervous system, which produces a soothing effect. If you do yoga or meditate, you already know about the benefits of breathwork, but are you still doing it? I have to remind myself to take the time every day to find stillness and breathe deeply.
If you google breathwork or breathing exercises, you will discover thousands of options. Because almost everything in 2020 is difficult, I keep my breathing practice simple. In the morning, I set aside a few minutes and sit in my favourite chair. I close my eyes and inhale for two counts through my nose and then I exhale for four counts. You can see which ratio works best for you, but make sure you’re breathing through your nose.
Why breathe through your nose? It’s the opposite of the panicked mouth-breathing state called hyperventilation. Not only is breathing through your nose more soothing, but it’s also better for your respiratory system. The nose filters out allergens, bringing warmed air into your lungs. Nose breathing also keeps the air in your lungs a little bit longer which can increase oxygenation compared to mouth breathing.
You have probably noticed an improvement in your breathing as you read this article. Many of us don’t realize our breathing is shallow and quick. You will be surprised how five minutes of focusing on breathing will help clear your mind and sooth your frazzled nerves.
Stay safe, my friends! I hope to see you soon. Please reach out if you have any questions.