- Teresa Jacobson, DBH, LPCC-S, NCC
March 24, 2020
Emergency healthcare workers, first responders, and crisis workers are armed with years of training. These are our everyday heroes, the front line workers who we trust will remain calm and level-head with swings of emergent public needs. Under "normal" circumstances, the front line workers are lucky to find moments of calm somewhere in-between emergencies.
Front line workers may have routines that are somewhat predictable and have been prepared for what can go wrong during their shift. Many also try to juggle the needs of a partner, children, and other familial responsibilities. In normal times for front line workers, life can be stressful enough.
Enter COVID-19. These same heroes from every day now have stress levels at an all-time high. Many may already be drawing oxygen from a tank that has already been running low on fumes. Without enough oxygen, any crisis can leave us breathless.
My husband and I have a saying when we notice the other is feeling stressed. "Oxygen helps." This helps us remember it's important to give ourselves permission to just breathe. Yes, breathing is an automatic process; taking a moment to mindfully draw in a breath and exhale - may seem so simple. When done with intention, it can calm, re-energize, aid clarity, and even help prevent panic attacks.
One of the best breathing exercises is a diaphragmatic breathing technique I actually learned from a cardiologist. This type of deep breathing may be easier for some to while lying down. Diaphragmatic breathing can also be accomplished sitting in a chair, and repeated throughout the day. If it is done frequently enough, it is a mindful technique that will become routine.
You will want to sit comfortably, with your knees bent, feet flat, and your shoulders, head and neck relaxed. Place one hand just below your rib cage, so you can feel your diaphragm move toward your hand as you breathe.
You will breathe in very slowly through your nose, taking a very full breath. If you feel your diaphragm push your hand out some, then you are doing it right. Exhale even slower through pursed lips -- as if you were preparing to whistle. Repeat this slowly three or four times, then note how your body feels.
This is one technique that can help your body and mind synchronize again. If done frequently throughout each day, it can also impact your heart rate and blood pressure.
Oxygen definitely helps. But please remember to secure yours before saving others.
If you are gasping to catch your breath, please reach out for help.
Teresa Jacobson is a Doctor of Behavioral Health and Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor Supervisor who is counseling Ohio and Kentucky adults of all ages and life experiences via secure Telehealth/Video visits. A strength-based, person-centered multi-cultural counselor, with an existential philosophy, Teresa can be reached by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org, calling (513) 206-3026, or visiting https://www.steppingtowardserenity.org.