Breathe, Be

Your deep nervous system is always looking out for you. It makes predictions about danger and safety based on heaps of things — sounds, smells, the slant of the sun, the stride or slink in something's gate.

Your breath. Fast and shallow? Your nervous system knows things are amiss. Slow and deep? Things might not be so bad.

Let's take a few deep breaths together. We'll see how we feel after.

Alternate Nostril Breathing

  1. Pinch your nose between your thumb and middle finger.

  2. Lift off your middle finger and inhale through your left nostril as deeply as you can. Count as you inhale.

  3. Replace you middle finger at the top of your inhale — pinch your nose shut and hold your breath in for 4 seconds.

  4. Lift off your thumb and exhale through your right nostril all the way. Count as you exhale.

  5. Replace your thumb at the bottom of your exhale - pinch your nose shut and hold your breath out for 4 seconds.

  6. Repeat this cycle 4 times then start over inhaling on the right side and exhaling on the left.

Box Breathing

  1. Inhale as deeply as you can - hold your breath in for 4 seconds

  2. Exhale almost all the way - hold your breath out for 4 seconds

  3. Exhale the rest of the way and inhale as deeply as you can - hold your breath in for 4 seconds.

  4. Repeat the cycle 4 (or more) times.

Think, Don't Think

I’m an anxious worrier. During periods of acute grief I’ve found it helpful to schedule my anxious worrying. Here’s my method:

1. Choose an interval - at first I find 5 minutes of worry to 10 minute of not worrying is a manageable ratio.

2. Start - when the big hand of the clock get to 12 worry for 5 minutes. During these five minutes, if your mind wanders from your anxious thoughts and fears gently bring it back. Say, Now is your time, my love. You have 4 more minutes. You have 2 more minutes.

When the big hand gets to 3 - stop. For the next 10 minutes when your brain starts to worry gently say to it, Not yet my darling - in 8 minutes you can start. Not quite yet - 6 more minutes.

Start at the 6, stop and the 9. I like to do one hour long cycle and then take a break and let my thoughts move freely for a while. Then again.

If you find (as I often do) you’ve forgotten to start worrying and it’s been more that 10 minutes - just start the cycle over from there. If it keeps happening space your intervals further apart. If you find you can’t fill 5 whole minutes with anxiety, shorten that period. The only rule is that you can’t lengthen the worry period.

Don't Know Breathing

  1. Set a timer for 7 minutes. On your inhales think don’t, On your exhales think know.

  2. Let any thoughts that come along come along and gently keep repeating, don’t know.

  3. Am I good? Don’t know. Am I bad? Don’t know. Will everything be fine? Don’t know. Should I eat a sandwich? Don’t know.

  4. You’ve answered the question. The answer is, don’t know. You’re free to set the question down.

Mindful Breathing

  1. Lie on your back.

  2. Put one hand on your belly and one hand on your chest. Use pillows to prop up your arms so you aren’t holding them up with your strength.

  3. Breathe completely normally.

  4. Feel your breath moving your hands. Think: This is how breath moves my body.