Breathing in the Time of Coronavirus-19
In this fraught time of the Coronavirus-19 pandemic, we’re being bombarded daily with frightening information (along with some misinformation) about the virus and how to stay well. And most people, already living in a high state of stress, become alarmed and fearful, getting stuck in an even higher state of stress, anxiety and even panic.
Wouldn’t this be an excellent moment in history to make information about how to calm ourselves widely available? In the interest of public health, how helpful it would be if children were taught breath work to be able to stay centered and calm. And what if every news show began and concluded with a segment demonstrating how to breathe properly. That would go a long way toward helping us deal with the news delivered in between.
HOW TO BREATHE
Here’s a short video showing how to breathe properly so you can stay centered and calm yourself:
In this longer TEDx Talk, psychologist and breathing expert Dr Belisa Vranich explains more fully how incorrect breathing stresses and impairs our bodies. She also shows how to breathe properly.
From an article called “How shallow breathing affects your whole body” on HeadSpace.com (Rifkin, 2017):
“If you want to observe incredible breathing, watch a newborn. They naturally practice deep, or diaphragmatic, breathing by using the diaphragm, a muscle under the lungs, to pull air into the lungs. Visually, you’ll see the belly expand and chest rise as they inhale air through the nose and into the lungs. As they exhale, the belly contracts.
“For many people, this kind of breathing is no longer instinctive. Instead, many of us have become shallow chest, or thoracic, breathers—inhaling through our mouth, holding our breath and taking in less air. Over time our breathing patterns have shifted as a reaction to environmental stressors, like temperature, pollution, noise, and other causes of anxiety. Cultural expectations, including the desire to have a flat stomach, encourage holding our breath and sucking in our stomachs, further tightening our muscles.
“When we breathe in a shallow way, the body remains in a cyclical state of stress—our stress causing shallow breathing and our shallow breathing causing stress. This sets off the sympathetic nervous system, the branch of the autonomic nervous system that primes us for activity and response. This kind of breathing locks the body and mind into a permanent state of stress. In fact, the body and brain are actually one and the same. You’ve no doubt noticed that your brain resides inside your body and they’re constantly interacting with each other.
“Long-term shallow breathing can seriously affect our health. According to Luckovich, the chronic stress that is associated with shallow breathing results in lower amounts of lymphocyte, a type of white blood cell that helps to defend the body from invading organisms, and lowers the amounts of proteins that signal other immune cells. The body is then susceptible to contracting acute illnesses, aggravating pre-existing medical conditions, and prolonging healing times. Shallow breathing can turn into panic attacks, cause dry mouth and fatigue, aggravate respiratory problems, and is a precursor for cardiovascular issues.”
I highly recommend reading the entire article.
BREATH WORK APP
This is a tutorial for my favorite breath work (pranayama) app, Universal Breathing, in case you’d use a breathing app on your smart phone:
Apologies to the spirit of Gabriel García Márquez and his wonderful novel Love in the Time of Cholera, which clearly influenced my choice of title.
Rifkin, R. (2017). HeadSpace.com. See: https://www.headspace.com/blog/2017/08/15/shallow-breathing-whole-body/ © Copyright 2020. Joan Rothchild Hardin. All Rights Reserved.
DISCLAIMER: Nothing on this site or blog is intended to provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.