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MANAGING ANXIETY DURING COVID

Updated: Oct 6

It’s been awhile since I’ve been able to set aside some time to write a post on the journal but during this time of such sudden mass hysteria and crisis, I thought maybe it would be nice to share some of the things that have really helped me maintain stillness in situations of no control and inner turbulence.


I know here in New York we joke and brush these feelings off and say it’s just something that comes hand in hand with living in this city. However right now, I think it’s maybe fair for me to say that varying levels of anxiety are being experienced globally and universally. I hope this post could serve more relevant than ever when I see so many people and friends who suffer from auto-immune conditions, respiratory problems or simply just panic disorders feel themselves on the brink of a breakdown as more and more fear is streamed into our everyday lives.


I wanted to introduce two simple breathing techniques that can slow down your heart rate and heart palpitations, lower blood pressure and actually help to rewire the neural pathways in your brain - rerouting you from your usual POINT A to POINT PANIC trigger to POINT A to POINT RELIEF.


RESONANCE BREATHING


A really simple and accessible breathing technique that I love and utilize alot in some of my classes. It’s a technique that’s practiced by a lot of extreme Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) sufferers such as war veterans and paramedics but also it’s a technique in which I love for the countless times it has pulled me through a lot of personal hardships. I usually don’t suffer from anxiety but practice these on some nights where I feel a shortness of breath (that feeling like maybe your throat is closing up? Or your lungs are tightening?) or when I feel like my thoughts are vapidly running on its own ferris wheel and I’m losing a fair grip. Also really helpful for those nights where you may need extra help shutting off and going to sleep.



STEP BY STEP


Sit in a comfortable position or lie on your back. If you are seated you can prop a pillow on the wall and lean against it, just as long as the base and the top of the spine is in a straight line for oxygen to flow freely up and down. A dimly lit room or lights off is best.

There are a few ratios to pick from but I’ve listed two of them:


Exhale all the stale breathe out. Begin.


4:6


Inhale for 4 counts : Exhale for 6 counts


To follow the visual guide below:


As the ball expands: Inhale

As the ball contracts: Exhale

Repeat for anywhere between 2 mins - 10 mins - whatever you are comfortable with or what is needed.




6:6

Inhale for 6 counts : Exhale for 6 counts


To follow the visual guide below:

As the ball expands: Inhale

As the ball contracts: Exhale

Repeat for anywhere between 2 mins - 10 mins - whatever you are comfortable with or what is needed.



If at any point it starts to feel uncomfortable, return to your regular breathing. Then start again when you feel ready. If you want extra resources, you can download The Breathing App created by Eddie Stern and Moby which has a sound component to it so you can close your eyes and listen to the sounds that cue for the inhalation and exhalations. This app is one of my most favorite things.



HOW DOES IT WORK?


The technique controls and stabilizes the intake and outtake of oxygen and CO2 and works into stabalizing the two branches of our nervous system - the sympathetic (our fight or flight system) and the parasympathetic (our rest and digest system). Through steadying the breath we can humble ourselves and our bodies into a state of homeostasis - the balancing of the two responses.


Think of the sympathetic nervous system as the accelerator - the hyper activity trigger in our lives. Think of the parasympathetic nervous system as the brake pedal - the slowing down of it all. Through these controlled states of breathing we actively send safety signals to the brain, almost tricking the body into believing that we are not panicked or stressed and in turn instructing the body that it’s okay to turn itself down. Then on it’s own, the body places a handle on the physical and emotional responses eg. slowing down the heart, sense of relief etc.


The breathing technique is proven to work with the vagus nerve which is a cranial nerve in our brain, the main communication channel between the brain and the body. I like to look at it as the telephone line between the mind and the feelings we then feel or the thought and our emotional response triggers. I could go on forever but the technique is also effective in that it helps achieve neuroplasticity - the rewiring of the brain from it’s usual habitual and repetitive pathways. So! By creating space and stillness and altering to another course of thought and action, with some work we can actually break behavior patterns.



BOX BREATHING

Sometimes known as square breathing, it’s quite similar to resonance breathing and it’s super simple and easy to digest. It’s common to feel a little dizzy if you are new to breathing techniques so if this happens don’t feel alarmed. Just stop, breathe normally and return when you feel safe and ready.



STEP BY STEP


Sit in a comfortable position - you can prop a pillow on the wall and lean against it, just as long as the base and the top of the spine is in a straight line for breath to flow. A dimly lit room or lights off is best.


Exhale all the stale breath out. Now you can begin.


Inhale for slow 4 counts.


Hold your breath for slow 4 counts.


Exhale for slow 4 counts.


Hold at the bottom of your exhale for slow 4 counts.


Repeat 4x in one sitting.




HOW DOES IT WORK?


This breathing technique is extremely effective for anxiety, sleep and panic disorders as it works with your autonomic nervous system. Again similarly to resonance breathing, we regulate oxygen and carbon dioxide intake in the bloodstream, working with the vagus nerve (the nerve that controls our mind to body communication channels) and the exhalation stimulates our rest and digest nervous system (the parasympathetic system). This is a powerful and effective stress reliever and also great at creating some space between your thoughts and its response triggers such as anxiety, panic, insonmia or shortness of breath.


I hope in one way or another these can help you even if you don’t need any relief at this point in time, maybe it can be a nice seed to plant and perhaps something you can return to over and over again as have I done over the past few years. It only takes a few minutes or let alone a few seconds to reroute the rollercoaster ride our minds usually want to take us on and with the simple use of oxygen and knowing how to utilize it, we actually have the power to navigate our minds into a different direction allowing us the power to place a different handle on our physical responses to certain situations.



If you have any other questions or you want to talk, never hesitate to reach out to me at hi@hellosun.nyc - I’m always here and happy to help x


What a year 2020 has been for us already! I always think these moments where we face such unknowns are always the moments where we have the chance to see ourselves the clearest. I see these times presented as mirrors - who do we become? Do we lose all integrity and hoard, mistreat, blame and self serve? Or can we find space to gather more love and selflessness and thought? At the end of the day, breathing techniques or none, it’s who we are in these times of strife that serve as clear reflections of who we are in our everyday lives. Whichever way you’re looking in the mirror I hope this time can serve the both of us into some introspective questioning and self-evaluation. So as we take this pause from our everyday lives - what is it that’s most important to you?


Although in the end I know we all will be well, take care of yourselves and others. Be Well x.

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