– listen to this article here, or read it below –
Two weeks before Easter they announced new restrictions. The schools would close again, children’s holiday activities were put in doubt. As if this was not enough, a few children in my son’s class had to go into quarantine. My shoulders felt like brick stones, my stomach was tense, my mind sent signals of resignation and the need for quiet. For months now, our daily family life has been unpredictable – and there was no turnaround in sight.
We all know, we cannot step out of the current situation. We cannot change the external circumstances. What we can influence though, is our stress reaction, our attitude towards the events.
We can also learn to take care of ourselves in troubled times. And that’s what I tried to do.
Actually, not much is needed to take care of yourself in situations in which you feel powerless and overwhelmed. For my favourite exercise, called “box breathing” you only need: your breath. And as you are breathing anyway, you can weave it in, even squeeze it in at nearly every moment of your day, wherever you are. Box breathing regulates your nervous system and almost immediately provides you with a sense of calm. It can help with anxiety, panic attacks or when you can’t get to sleep.
So why don’t you get started right now, while you read this article? Or even better yet, you can listen to it here. The idea is to draw a square in the air in front of you, and to align your breath:
1. Draw a line by lifting up one finger in front of you while breathing in for four seconds.
2. Move your finger sideways holding your breath and again count to four.
3. Bring your finger down as you breathe out on four times.
4. And then close the box while you hold your breath again, for four seconds.
Slowly breathing in – holding your breath – breathing out – holding your breath.
Repeat this circle a few times at your own pace and eventually you don’t need the finger anymore when you draw the box in your head while you alternate breathing in, holding your breath, breathing out, holding your breath.
Box breathing strengthens your resilience and nourishes you from the inside. It allows you to unwind, relieve your immediate stress, take a step back and make a more informed choice how to carry on. Remember that it is always available to you, at every moment in your busy life.
If you are interested in discovering more tools to learn how to respond more skilfully to daily life stress as a parent, at work, or in other challenging situations, have a look at our courses or find various meditations on our Podbean account.