Staying calm may be one of our biggest challenges as we face the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic and find ourselves experiencing unprecedented levels of anxiety. It’s war mode, and our common enemy is a virus, invisible and silent. Some of us can be asymptomatic, others may experience a mild cold, but for some it can be deadly, and this is understandably scary.
Unlike traditional wars, we are all in this together in an effort to fight the virus and “flatten the curve,” and as we brace for peak infection. If there was ever a time to need direction on how to calm down, it’s now.
So, I’m going to focus on one anxiety “first aid” tip: Use your belly. For breathing, that is. Since levity can be immune boosting, perhaps let’s call it the Coronavirus belly dance…
I’m referring to deep belly breathing, otherwise known as diaphragmatic breathing. It pushes out your waistband, and signals your body’s alert system that you are safe, allowing you to let go of your state of alarm. In other words, you can calm down, just by doing this type of breathing - anywhere, anytime. And it’s always there for you, in your control.
What are the steps?
Here’s exactly how to calm down using belly breathing:
- Place one hand on your chest.
- Place the other hand on your belly.
- Breathe in through your nose, directing air to your belly as you feel your belly rise. Keep the hand on your chest still, in order to focus your breathing on your belly.
- Repeat for 10 breaths.
If you need a visual, here’s a YouTube
Give it a try right now while you’re reading… You can do belly breathing when sitting, lying down, or standing up - in fact some recommend trying it in different positions throughout the day. The more you do it, the better you’ll get at it. And it’s there for you anytime, anywhere; all you’re doing is breathing, just differently.
While you’re breathing, try to name the precise trigger for your anxiety. Are you afraid someone you know will be hit hard by COVID-19? Or that you will? Are you anxious that you’ll be unable to pay the bills due to lost work? Or be able to retire when planned because of the economic fallout? Are you concerned you can’t visit loved ones or keep long-planned vacation and celebration plans? Whatever your anxiety is, name it… and then try the belly breathing some more.
Notice what happens in your body as you breathe deeply. No matter the reason was that you started this belly “dance,” notice the calm you feel as you send breath to the deepest parts of your lungs. This simple strategy provides immediate relief and sends powerful neurological signals to our brain that we are ok.
Taking control of your breath is a powerful way to rebalance your emotional equilibrium, something we all will need increasingly in the weeks ahead. When so much seems so out of control, it can be empowering to know we can control our breathing, and thus our anxiety to a large degree.
I will be sharing more coping tips in the coming weeks, as well as a special book offer coming soon. If there are topics you want to see covered, please reach out to me by email, or simply reply to this newsletter.
I have also put together a Coronavirus Anxiety Toolkit
covering the topics I’ve been working with the most and sharing evidence-based strategies and tools to help during the outbreak. It’s a free online course I plan to continue to update. To opt in, click here
Wishing you good health, safety, and a sense of control as you face the week ahead,