No, really, take a long deep breath in, and a long exhale out and let it all go.
Connection in Times of Isolation
One thing we can do to stay connected, is to connect to ourselves. Through breath, we are able to connect with our bodies. Noticing where tension has built up, and bringing our breath to those areas on our inhalations and releasing tension on our exhalations. This allows a feeling of being more in control of our emotions and our bodies, especially in these times of uncertainty.
One of my favourite breathing techniques is the box breathing method. This helps to return breathing to its normal rhythm while creating a more relaxed, calming effect on your bodies entire nervous system. Natures very own ‘chill pill’; free and no prescription involved!
1. Begin by having your back supported by a chair and your feet on the floor.
2. Close your eyes and begin to just breathe.
I like to do a little self-check before I begin this exercise to notice any shallow breathing (breath that begins in your chest instead of abdomen, difficulty in drawing breath normally) and any tension I may be holding onto. This creates a focus for me to notice where I am at before I begin the box breathing method and to better assess how I feel after. It gives me a sense of targeting what my goals are during this exercise.
If you are a numbers person, you can start this exercise by rating your stress/anxiety etc on a scale from 1-10. After you complete this exercise, you can come back to your rating scale and scale your stress/anxiety 1-10 and see where you landed.
3. Begin by breathing in through your nose while counting to 4, slowly. Make sure your breath begins in your abdomen, then rises to your chest all the way to your collar bones. I find when placing one hand on my abdomen and the other on my chest, I can feel the breath moving alongside my front body.
4. Once you reach the top of your inhalation, pause and hold your breath for 4 seconds.
5. After pausing, begin your exhale through your nose for another 4 seconds.
6. Repeat these steps at least 3 times. Ideally, you would like to work up to doing so for 4 minutes or until you feel calm.
This may feel challenging at first, but it will get easier the more you practice. You can start with doing each part of the breath, the inhale, the pause, and the exhale, for 3 seconds v 4 seconds. Once you feel you have mastered the 4-count breath, you can increase to five or six seconds.
Benefits of this Technique
Significantly reduces the production of hormones associated with stress, such as cortisol. This, in turn, creates a positive effect on your emotions and mental well-being.
1. Assists in the reduction of anxiety, stress and depression.
Increases mental clarity by decreasing brain fog and increasing energy and focus on the things you would rather be accomplishing then binge watching a Netflix show you can’t remember why you even started watching in the first place.
This is an amazing tool to have in your toolbox during times of stress. The more you practice, the better you will get at it. And the better you are, the quicker and easier it is to pull it out in times of extreme stress. In time, if and when you are experiencing a loss of self-control you can come back to this to bring you back to your body, back to the present moment. Being in the present moment is the place where we have the most sense of control.
Try and find a quiet space, even if that means locking yourself in the bathroom away from the kids for a few minutes.
Try not to force long inhales or exhales or the pausing of breath. If you feel you are doing this, then back off and start with less time on each phase of your breath. You do not want to create more tension or stress within your body, it’s defeating our purpose and goal here!
Trying this method before sleep can help ease and calm your nervous system to aid in prepping your body for sleep by activating your parasympathetic ‘rest and digest’ nervous system.