Mental Health Is Wealth
When we think "health," it typically seems that the body is the first thing that comes to mind, but what good is a healthy body if your mind isn't healthy too? I am very transparent with my mental health struggles, and to be honest, I have been struggling lately.
The COVID-19 outbreak has not only taken a toll on the physical health of thousands, but also the mental health of so many who are self-isolating and in quarantine. I may not be a mental health expert, but I can tell you from personal experience what is helpful and what is potentially harmful to mental health.
You don't have to have a diagnosis to experience anxiety. Heck, anxiety is our body's way of trying to work through a stressful situation. Stcientifically speaking, a lot happens when we experience anxiety triggers. Have you ever felt the blood drain from your face? Or a tingling in your neck or hands? Felt dizzy or lightheaded from stress? Heart palpitations? These are all your body's ways of manifesting the outside stress. One way to lessen these physical effects of stress is deep breathing. Yeah, I know, you've heard it before, but are you doing it correctly?
In an article I wrote a while back called "Breathing: The REAL Foundation" I explain :
One other mind-blowing thing about a proper breath pattern is that it actually helps you level out stress hormones on a long term basis. Here's some science for you: when you breathe deeply, it stimulates the vagus nerve. Your vagus nerve is the longest nerve in the parasympathetic nervous system. The parasympathetic nervous system is responsible for your body's functions when it is at rest. The term "rest and digest" stems from the parasympathetic nervous system. When the vagus nerve is stimulated, your heart and lungs and digestive system functions at maximum efficiency. So yes, a deep breathing pattern can help you function better, how crazy is that! On the flip side, if you have a shallow breathing pattern, you may not be stimulating the vagus nerve, meaning the sympathetic nervous system can take control. The sympathetic nervous system is responsible for "fight or flight", in other words, what your body does under stress or injury. If your body is unnecessarily functioning "under stress" while the sympathetic system is in control, that may cause cortisol levels to rise (the "stress" hormone) which can affect all sorts of systems in the body. It can cause muscles to contract and heart rate to increase.
Essentially, I'm saying that finding a DEEP breathing pattern, one that actually has proper diaphragmic movement, can actually have chemically altering positive effects on the body! This is why meditation, yoga, prayer, and other relaxation techniques are considered helpful, because they all tie back to breathing.
One technique I find helpful in the midst of a full-blown panic attack where I feel like I am completely spiraling out of control is the 4,7,8 breathing pattern. Deep inhale through the nose for 4 counts, hold for 7 counts, exhale slowly through the teeth (like a "shhhh" sound) for 8 counts. Repeating that for a minute or more can help me center my mind back to a more functional state. My recommendation is that you don't wait until you are mid panic attack to try these breathing exe