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Breathing Is Good Medicine


By Karen Buchanan, Assistant Administrator, Friendship Manor

The pandemic years have pushed many of us to our physical, emotional, and spiritual limits with the unrelenting waves of changed expectations and guidance. If you’ve found yourself at the end of your rope at some point, you are not alone. In the midst of managing all of that, have you considered the power of your breath?

Short Meditations. At Christmas, I received a FitBit watch that conveniently counts my steps and offers a whole platform of helpful monitoring and guidance for good health. One of its offerings is a series of short meditations that allow me to look at a peaceful scene while listening to a soothing voice that guides me through relaxation breathing. It’s remarkable to note how dramatically I can reduce my resting pulse with a 2-minute meditation session. Christians may also like downloading the free “Pause” app on their smartphone; it offers Christ-centered meditations starting at one minute in duration and effectively brings stress down and re-centers the day. Googling “short meditation” will get you there too.

Square Breathing.
Also known as Box Breathing (in spaces like yoga rooms or gyms) or Combat Tactical Breathing (in military settings), this technique is an excellent way to rapidly reduce your stress in high-pressure settings that may otherwise cause panic attacks, tunnel vision, and other fight,flight, or freeze reactions. It can also help with lower level threats like worry or nervousness that may be driving your blood pressure up. In situations ranging from dealing with a cranky mother-in-law to driving in stressful traffic to facing a real threat like an active shooter, this technique helps to interrupt the “reptilian brain” response that triggers regrettable actions and allows access to helpful tools like thinking before acting or speaking. Practicing this breathing when you’re not in a high-stress situation helps you remember how to do it when the stuff hits the fan.

It works like this:

  • Relax yourself by taking 3–5 breaths as described below, visualizing each number as you count.
  • Breathe in through your nose, counting 1, 2, 3, 4
  • Stop and hold your breath, counting 1, 2, 3, 4
  • Exhale through your mouth, counting 1, 2, 3, 4
  • Stop and hold your breath, counting 1, 2, 3, 4
  • Repeat

Sleep Assist. People under stress or even just people who are aging often have trouble falling asleep and/or staying asleep. While a younger me used to joke that sleeping was “one of my strongest skills,” the past decade has changed that. After experimenting with things like supplements, medications, and screen time management without much success in solving this problem, more recently I stumbled across the Dodow Sleep Aid Device. It looks like a drink coaster with a tiny light; it functions as a visual metronome, projecting a circle of light on the ceiling that expands and contracts. The user breathes in while the circle expands, and out while it contracts. I have been surprised to find that I fall asleep within a minute or two, and even better, most nights I sleep right through until morning, which was something my body seemed to have forgotten how to do.

Breathing Is Good Medicine. While diet, exercise, medication, and all manner of lifestyle choices play a hand in stress management, don’t overlook the handy, always-accessible, no-cost option of breathing when managing stress. It is calorie-free and void of side effects—certainly a low-risk place to start!

Questions about Friendship Manor? Call 309-786-9667 and ask for marketing.

NOTE: I do not represent any of the products mentioned in this article, nor profit from the sale of them.