Whenever there is a gap between your habits and your goals, your habits will always win.

Self-care is not getting a massage and a pedicure. It is practices (habits/routines) that we integrate into our daily lives that contribute to our overall health and well-being. What I’m going to share is a fast and easy breathing practice that will help you start your day, end your day and calm your day by just taking a pause and doing this little exercise. Teach it to the kids too, so that they have a strategy that they can use when they feel strong emotions or just need a break from “too much” going on in the environment (noise being a primary sensory overload for some children and adults.) It’s called 4-7-8 breathing. Here are the steps:

  • Exhale normally
  • Breathe in 4 counts
  • Hold your breath for 7 counts
  • Exhale with a swooshing sound for 8 counts ( a fun thing to do with kids is to push your arms forward when you force the air out of your lungs, make the swooshing sound)
  • Repeat 3-10 times

Here is one more breathing exercise to try. It’s called Breath Counting. This one is a bit of a challenge and I would suggest doing it when you are alone and the environment is quiet, maybe sitting on the edge of the bed when you first wake up in the morning. Here are the steps:

Sit in a comfortable position with the spine straight and head inclined slightly forward. Gently close your eyes and take a few deep breaths. Then let the breath come naturally without trying to influence it. Ideally, it will be quiet and slow, but depth and rhythm may vary.

  • To begin the exercise, count “one” to yourself as you exhale
  • The next time you exhale, count “two,” and so on up to “five”
  • Then begin a new cycle, counting “one” on the next exhalation

Never count higher than “five” and count only when you exhale. You will know your attention has wandered when you find yourself up to “eight,” “12,” even “19.” Try to do this for 5 minutes and work up to 10.

Jot down breathing exercises in your planner/schedule/calendar for starting and ending your day, every day. Some studies show that it can take up to 6 weeks of practice before you realize all the health benefits from controlled breathing exercises. If you are interested in more breathing exercises, just Google or search YouTube for “breathing exercises.” One of my favorites is Bellows Breathing. It is a stimulating exercise that helps you learn to breathe deep from your diaphragm and you may feel energized or less fatigued afterward. Check out Wim Hof’s breathing technique for improving your immune system. The best breath book I've ever read is “Breathe In Breathe Out” by James E Loehr, Ed.D. and Jeffrey A Migdow, M.D.

Just one last word about a breathing practice, it can also be called meditation which is often the very first practice many experts suggest when starting to make wellness/self-care a part of your daily life. The physical and mental health benefits of meditation are well documented. The breath counting exercise above is often used as a meditation practice for beginners.

Be on the lookout for more articles on specific self-care practices. We hope that you will find time to implement a few self-care practices into your daily routine during this scary time. We are all in this together. COVID-19 has created a lot of unknowns, but one thing is for sure, we can rely on each other to get through this. Please reach out for support as needed.

 

Tags: self-care , breathe , breath , breathing

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