Anyone out there feeling a little on edge lately? Maybe a little claustrophobic because they’re suddenly sharing their home office with waaaaaay too many people?
Asking for a friend.
I mean, really…how is it even possible to have meetings ALL. DAY. LONG?? How can anyone even talk for that long without taking a break? Or how about glasses/mugs? Anyone with family members trying to break the record for most number of glasses and mugs used in one day?
For most of us, everyday life has changed drastically in the past month and it’s been challenging for everyone. For me, I went from working from home, alone, all day long, to having four extra adult-sized bodies around 24/7 (one of whom has meetings all day long…). I know I’m not alone in that recent events have put our worlds on a bit of a tilt. We’re all in the same boat, for the most part and I have to admit, my irritation level has been running a tad higher than normal lately. I so love when we’re all in the same city, spending time together as a family, but these days I’m thankful my oldest decided to stick it out in Boston…five humans and a large dog in the house is quite enough! I’m having trouble focusing with so many people around all the time…and all the freaking mess – HOLY MOLY!
If you (or any of your “friends”) are feeling the same way, have something that will help us stay calm while we “quarantine” on…
Mindful breathing is an incredibly effective technique to bring the body and mind into a state of calm. I used it quite a bit when my kids were small, but after several years of not needing it quite so much, it’s been especially useful as of late! Go figure.
As I keep reiterating in my posts these days, we all need to take time to focus our energies on what we can control. It will get us through this. I joke about my frustration at having so many of them invading my space, but the struggle is real and quite serious. Keeping ourselves in a state of calm (“rest and restore”), as opposed to a state of panic or irritation (“fight or flight”) will not only help ease the strain on our family relationships while we’re self-isolating, but it will help to keep us healthy – mind and body. Mindful breathing puts the body in a parasympathetic state, so it can perform necessary bodily functions like digestion and detoxification to keep us in optimal health. It also helps to keep our stress response in check – an absolute necessity for staying healthy.
When we get worked up or upset, our breathing tends to become more shallow – this only adds to the tension and fatigue. Mindful breathing uses your diaphragm and can reduce stress and also increase energy. Breathing with your diaphragm (also known as abdominal breathing) decreases stress by activating relaxation centers in the brain and when the abdomen expands, it causes negative pressure to pull blood into the chest, improving venous flow of blood back to the heart. Yoga is excellent for practicing mindful breathing – every yoga class I’ve ever done focuses on controlling the breath and using the full capacity of the lungs. There are so many studios and yogis offering on-line classes to help get us through these crazy times, a quick Google search will find you plenty. But you don’t have to be in a yoga class to practice mindful breathing.
This technique comes from the functional nutritionist teaching the program I’m currently taking (Josh Gitalis) and I’ve been using it with great success! It’s a perfect tool to use in that moment when something triggers your irritation over your threshold. Here’s how it works:
- Find a comfortable place to sit or lie down, feet slightly apart, with one hand on your abdomen near the navel and the other on your chest.
- Gently exhale the air in your lungs through your mouth, then inhale slowly through your nose for four counts, pushing your abdomen out slightly and concentrating on your breath. As you breathe in, imagine warm air flowing all over your body. Hold the breath for a count of four, but not more than seven.
- Slowly exhale through your mouth while counting to eight. Gently contract your abdominal muscles to completely release the remaining air in the lungs.
- Repeat for at least five cycles, or until you feel deeply relaxed. You may find you can only do one or two cycles at first, but it gets easier as you practice more.
- Once you’re able to more naturally breathe into your abdomen, it’s not necessary to have your hands on your belly and chest.
- As an added bonus, if you press your tongue on the ridge of the roof of your mouth (behind your teeth), you may also find you’re able to lower your blood pressure while practicing this technique.
Now is a perfect time to make mindful breathing a routine practice in our lives so we can continue to reap the benefits long after this craziness has passed. Anything we can do that will help us to stay calm while we quarantine on is going to keep our minds and bodies healthier and better equipped to fight off anything that comes our way – not just coronavirus.