I have been actively practicing “rescue breathing” this week. Between the unaccountable devastation and terror in Japan and the ongoing interviews with the dead-eyed Saif-el Islam and the drug addled Muammar Gaddafi, I am feeling afraid. What’s ahead seems more terrifying then what has already happened. My heart has been racing, my stomach is knotted, my thinking is fuzzy, and my breathing is shallow.
I am distracted, whirling…. glued to the computer screen. You may be feeling similarly.
This is a physical stress response. Our bodies are sleekly designed to deal with fear.
The brain signals the adrenals to release hormones. Get more oxygen to the brain (rapid breathing)! Send more blood to our muscles (get ready to run)! Dilate the pupils (the better to see you with!) and raise the blood pressure. It is the fight, flight or freeze response. Though I am safely in the privacy of my home, my mind has absorbed the countless and potential tragedies and made them very real for me. The axis of the earth has literally shifted.
“Rescue breathing” is a way to manage a highly agitated nervous system. It counteracts the shallow, over-oxygenated system by focusing on your exhalation. This technique is a 2:2:1 breathing practice. What that means is that your exhalation and retention are twice as long as your inhalation. For example, if your inhalation is three seconds, the breath timing would be:
Exhale for six seconds…Hold for six seconds….Inhale for three seconds
Try it and see. Sit comfortably and breathe slowly and deeply through your nose. Close your eyes to shut out visual distractions. Count your first natural inhale and then start the exhale using the 2:2:1. Starting with shorter cycles may help you build to longer cycles. After a few minutes, you should feel your mind and body relax. This is a tactic to help you function when the chaos of your day, the world, your life, triggers an alarm response. It is important to know that you can settle your system down. Right now, I am doing this practice daily. I hope it helps you, too.
P.S. If you are interested in knowing where I donated money to Japan or what I think about the U.S. and Libyan situation, you can email me.