These current events have caused me to step back and realize that collectively, we are all going through an inherently traumatic experience. Regardless of our views on the virus, or our political leaning, all of our realities have been impacted in one way or another. More and more I find myself using the coping techniques that I typically teach my traumatized clients, and that’s why I feel using these blog posts is a good opportunity to share some of these techniques to help those struggling. Each blog post I create will highlight one aspect or resource meant to help establish safety. My first post will address parasympathetic breathing.
Deep Breathing –
Working with clients throughout the years I have come to the realization that often times, less is more. Especially when considering a coping strategy that will be used in a stressful situation, since these strategies will be best used when they are programmed into our muscle memory. There are 3 basic components that some find helpful to focus on when considering deep breathing.
First, using your belly and not your chest (when using our chest, we are engaging more of our flight or fight system, and when we are using our belly, our diaphragm is engaged, and this is helpful in stimulating our parasympathetic response, the part of our body that calms us).
Secondly, using an exhale to inhale ratio of 2 to 1 (ie. Inhaling for 1 second exhaling for 2, or inhaling for 2 exhaling for 4). Having an extended exhale can help communicate to the brain that in this moment, we are safe.
Finally, inhaling through the nose and exhaling out the mouth such as you are blowing through a straw. This can help regulate the amount and speed of the air expressed in the exhale.
Acknowledging that everyone is different, I think its important to understand that these are general guidelines and some may find tweaking aspects of these methods can make parts of this work better than others. Thank you for taking time out of your day to read this post and I’m hopeful that you find it useful. If you’re finding that the stress or trauma feels like too much to handle on your own, reach out to someone for some support. And we are always here to help, as well.
Jonathan Edwards, LPC