Deep Breathing:  Christine “Liz” Larue

We are living in stressful times. Not a day goes by without hearing some story on the news that causes one to catch your breath. You hear about some issue you grit your teeth about; it could be some political snafu, your boss or relative getting on your absolute last nerve, or some aspect of our pandemic affecting easy movement of our lives.

How do we rest? Caring for children or your mother, grandpa or aunty can seem like your life is either overscheduled or perpetually running on fumes. So how do we slow down our day? It’s called mindfulness. It’s actually different than prayer. In prayer, we turn inward to appeal to our faiths for vision, respite, positive change, and guidance from a higher power. We do need that. But American lives have gotten so fast and furious that we often feel we exist only for the next crisis to hit us. There’s a starting point that we can do every day to make your prayers more powerful. It’s called taking time for yourself to BREATHE. A mindful time, even for 5 minutes.

You know, when someone has asthma or a panic attack, the first thing that happens is panic! You struggle for breath; your chest tightens, your fists clench, and the fight or flight reaction sets in. We often tell a child to “Calm down, slow down.” But we as adults don’t take our own advice to a child. When you pause to take a deep breath, concentrate on moving your breath from the top of your stomach, breathing in deeply from your mouth to exhaling slowly through your nose. You are taking control of your body’s flight & fight response. It seems so simple it’s almost childish, right?

At an earlier time, I worked as a school social worker. I got referred to me all of the hyperactive children who gave teachers the grayest hairs daily in class….the creme de la creme of ADHD. These kids were all wiggle, movement, irritable, acting out, jumping beans type of kids who couldn’t pay attention even if Godzilla walked into the room. Getting their attention was monumental. I started a group of 3rd graders who were constantly in motion. After one stressful 20 minutes, I had to tell to get everyone to look at me. I instructed the kids to close their eyes and take deep breaths. I first got a lot of very exaggerated chest breathing like marathon runners after a long-distance race! I used a small drum and started a slow beat akin to a heartbeat. Slowly the children followed the beat and took slow deep breaths. In 10 minutes, my classroom was quiet!

We repeated the exercise every week. After three weeks, the children visibly started to relax and automatically went into deep breathing when instructed. I added a verbal image of going to a movie theater just for each child – visualize a pleasing and calming time on the blank movie screen, and then walk into that picture and spend some time in the scene. One day while doing this, my principal came quietly into my small classroom. What she saw were these hyper children actually breathing quietly around my small table, and all of them were either asleep or close to it. Stunned, she stared at this with wide, incredulous eyes. These were the kids that gave her gray hairs also. After about 10-15 minutes, I instructed the children to walk out of the movie screen, sit down in the theater, take one glance back, and know they could return to that scene anytime they did this exercise for a few quiet minutes. Every time the children would stretch, yawn, and swear that was the best sleep they had each week. Sometimes parents would sit with us going thru the breathing exercise, and they would also doze. My principal swore that it was her quietest time during the day doing that exercise on her own.

You can do this. You can use quiet music – not the bebop kind to get your toe tapping: natural sounds, a fan noise, or no noise…just deep breathing. You can do it outside, focus on a tree, or play with your dog, but something relaxing. Just move your breath in and out slowly and imagine a beautiful time in your life.

That’s how you Rest to destress…anytime.

And turn the news off sometimes. Give yourself a break. Get the household in on quiet breathing time and put the cellphones and tablets in a basket. Ten or twenty minutes of vacation from multi-media won’t kill anyone. Add a reward for quiet time like hugs, dancing, a taffy apple, or favorite TV time. Even if Godzilla comes crashing at the end of the street, you’ll be so quiet you’ll hear him coming before anyone else. Happy deep breathing!

Christine “Liz” LaRue

Christine “Liz” LaRue

Artist, Meditater, Community Social Worker

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