Inhale. Exhale. Breathe.
It’s stating the obvious to say that everyone breathes; to breathe is to be alive. But because it’s just a natural part of living, we rarely acknowledge that breath not only keeps us alive but it is a powerful tool for maintaining good mental health.
Sheral Jones and Vicky Manderson work for Communitas Supportive Care Society, supporting people who live with developmental disabilities, mental health challenges, and acquired brain injury. The pandemic has had an impact on the people they serve and also the way Sheral, Vicky, and their colleagues support them. Last spring a creative online service called Zoombaya was developed to help the team stay connected with the people they serve. Zoombaya offers daily opportunities to stay in touch, to learn new skills, and to stay well.
“We have a couple of weekly Zoombaya sessions where we seek to equip people with the skills and tools of mindfulness in order for them to learn more coping skills. This includes breathing exercises,” Vicky explains.
Practicing specific breathing techniques on a regular basis is meant to empower people when they’re in the midst of anxiety and stress.
“It’s like a muscle that has to be strengthened and exercised, and we hope that by repeatedly using these tools in our sessions, they will be able to call on these practices when they need them most,” Sheral says.
Specific breathing techniques can help to reduce stress and anxiety, and bring focus to the present. When you take the time to connect with your senses and pay attention to what is happening in your body at that moment, you can regulate your emotions instead of being overwhelmed by them. The stress is acknowledged but in the midst of that experience comes the recognition of the need for self-care, to calm the “mental chatter.”
“Deep breathing has been shown to be an effective and handy tool to have in one’s wellness toolbox,” Vicky says. “Often with anxiety we get wrapped up in fear of the future or other worries that we can’t always control. So, breathing exercises are one way to calm your mind, relax your body and take care of yourself.”
Participants in the mindfulness sessions attest to their effectiveness. Karla says that Meaningful Mondays sessions calm her down and give her energy for the day ahead. Elizabeth agrees.
“Meaningful Mondays helps me with my anxiety, it calms me down,” she says. “Seeing everyone’s beautiful faces there always makes my day better.”
Sheral and Vicky both practice mindful breathing in their personal lives and have noticed the difference it makes in being able to manage stress. This is what motivates them to share these tools with others.
“We want to be able to share that with the people we serve and empower them to use it,” Sheral says. “Mindfulness is something you can do anywhere, any time and all you need is your own self.”
Here is an example of a breathing exercise from Zoombaya that you can use. Try it today!