The last couple weeks we’ve all been doing it – watching the numbers rise, first overseas, now here at home. We hear about the number of new cases of COVID-19, number of deaths, where they’re dispersed throughout the world and, frighteningly, how close they are coming to home. Unknown numbers of people exposed. Are there enough masks and ICU beds? Is it as serious as some say?
We’re washing our hands, wiping down doorknobs and keyboards like there’s no tomorrow. We’re watching things near and dear to us change – schools and businesses are closed. We’re social distancing, no hanging out with friends, foot bumps instead of handshakes and hugs. It’s scary, many are increasingly anxious; none of us were prepared for this.
So…what do we do? How do we handle those jangling nerves, the thoughts and the “what if’s” running through our heads?
Some answers are deceptively simple…but not necessarily easy. First off, breathe, deep breaths, what’s called “belly breathing.” Slowly breathing in through your nose, hold it a couple moments and then breath out through your mouth. Sounds simple enough right?
Here’s the hard part – hold your attention on your breath, so it’s all there is in the moment. Your brain will want to wander off (and it will), making grocery lists, worrying about everything from money and COVID-19 to whether you returned your library book. Notice those thoughts, but don’t invest in them, bring your attention back to your breath. Notice the air coming in through your nose and filling your lungs, be aware of how it feels as you hold it there a moment, imagining the oxygen flowing through your body, calming those thoughts, Then exhale completely, pushing the air from your lungs.
Then…do it again.
The thoughts will rise again; just bring your attention back to your breath. Practice this, 5 deep breaths, 10 times a day. It costs you nothing, takes less than 2 minutes, you can do it anywhere (let’s face it, you have to breathe anyway). Best of all – it’s remarkably effective.