I got a cold around Halloween that seemed innocent enough – stuffy nose, congestion, and tired. I took a full day off work and even slept in. I stopped waking up early and cancelled the workouts. I was taking care of myself and trying my best.
Then the nasty virus took an aim at one of my most precious and vulnerable resources – my lungs. After 3 days of a simple cold, I could barely breathe and became fearful. I called my asthma doctor for assistance, got myself to urgent care and have been on intense medication for 6 days. Today – I was able to wake up and get my family ready for the day without struggling. I am incredibly grateful.
I have had asthma since I can remember – it started as a toddler, when I freaked out my parents by having sudden asthma attacks that forced them to rush me to the emergency room for adrenaline shots and emergency breathing treatments. Since then, I have been extremely lucky – I have spent the last 3 decades learning how to manage and support my handicapped lungs on my own. I have had years where it barely crossed my mind, and months where I needed more assistance to continue breathing effectively. Most of my friends and coworkers don’t even know it’s part of my life.
I had often gotten to a point of taking for granted one of the most beautiful things we are able to do as humans. Breathe. Taking deep, slow, and healthy breaths whenever we want.
I’ll tell you frankly- This incident has reminded me how lucky we are to be here taking these deep breaths. And not only that.
Breathing air is such a vital yet ignored part of our lives, but it is also one of the most accessible tools we have with us at all times.
Think about it – how often do you read or hear that one of the best things you can do is to “Take a deep, slow breath,” or “Pause for a moment and breathe,” or “Try belly breathing,” or “Pay attention to your breath as it goes in and out”? They are everywhere! These little tidbits of advice are usually found tucked into articles about health, lowered stress, being overwhelmed or meditation.
I hate to admit it, but even I had taken for granted the extreme value in using our breath to help me out. Not until it was unavailable to me was I truly reminded of how much we need it. Not only to live, but to stay calm, healthy and happy.
To honor both my recovering lungs and those of you with end of year work and personal obligations, I wanted to share a quick list of so many instances in which you can use your available, free, already working breath to help you:
- In traffic or experiencing road rage? Take some slow breaths that move with the beat of the music.
- Kids screaming at you? Walk away and take 5 slow deep breaths to reset yourself. You help yourself AND demonstrate a great coping mechanism for them to use.
- Can’t sleep? Lay on your back and breathe in through your nose and out your mouth. Imagine each breath is filling you with relaxation and peace. Count breaths until 5, then start over.
- Work getting frustrating or overwhelming? Use your breath to chant a little mantra to yourself. Consider breathing in with the words “Peace” or “calm”, and breathing out with the words “let it go” or “stress”. I often say, “I’m breathing in calm”, then “And out with fear/stress/anger.” Use what works for you.
I could go on and on, but you get the point. USE YOUR BREATH.
Not only is it free and available everywhere, you are already doing it… right now.
To be honest, you have to do it all the time to stay alive. Why not use it for your benefit?
And if my explanations aren’t convincing enough (or if you need to convince someone else to breathe with you), check out the links below for some more research-based evidence:
- Harvard Health: Breath Control and Stress
- WebMD: Breathing Exercises For Relaxation
- Fun Breathing Exercises For Kids
- The Verge: How Breathing Effects Your Mind