Keeping the coronavirus in the BAG

Another acronym has found me. They do that alot, from my use of CD (first for Cultural Differences, then for Civil Discourse) to my three Cs — curiosity, compassion, and courage — and to my new book LEAPFROG (How to hold a civil conversation in an uncivil era). 

What’s in my BAG? It’s how I’m coping with CoViD-19 these days.  I’ve been sharing it a bit and am ready to share it with you. I’d love to hear how you find it. 

BAG: Belly breaths, Actions, Gratitudes.

Each one has been known, independent of the others, to help relieve anxiety, to release oxytocin, the “warm, soft, and fuzzy” hormone, and to activate the parasympathetic nervous system. Let’s take them one at a time.

Somewhat irrelevant photo. My view out my bedroom window two days ago: May 11, 2020



I was first introduced to belly breaths in the 1980s when I was doing yoga weekly. But it has only been in the past two years that I’ve understood its value as an anxiety reliever, a calming influence, and a mindful practice.  It’s become my new favorite activity, thanks to neuroscience. 

The idea is to notice your breath; there’s no need to change it. Picture your breath like water filling up a jug (I thank my old yoga guru Larry Terkel for that metaphor). Watch how it fills the bottom of the jug first, then makes its way to the top of the jug.  

Follow your breath as it pushes out your diaphragm.  (You do know your breath doesn’t really go into your belly, don’t you? Good.)  Do this a few times.  Four is a nice number. 

If you want to experiment a bit, you might force your exhale to go longer than your inhale or, you could lengthen the time between your inhale and exhale.  All are optional.  It’s the belly breath that is what matters for our vagus nerve exercise here. 

And just pay attention to how you feel after doing these for a few moments.  



In one of my early COVID posts — Suffering On the Sofa: Day 12 — I advocated two things:  stay busy and have fun.

Staying busy is an ancient antidote for anxiety. It’s a distraction, sure, and sometimes — like in the midst of this pandemic — distraction is welcome. 

What are you going to do today?  Identify THREE activities you’ll do each day that will make today different from yesterday. That step eliminates the basics like brushing your teeth and eating meals.  For example, a typical pre-CoViD Thursday for me might have once included

  • pick up dog food 
  • write and mail 3 letters
  • see 2 clients

In this COVID-19 age, the dog food run is eliminated and #2 gets separated into two steps (write and mail) since we only go to the Post Office once a week.  I’ll get the dog food that same that day. And yes, I’d let the staff bring it out to my car. 

Thanks to, a HIPA compatible internet platform, and PayPal, I can still see my clients in the afternoon. Some things haven’t changed that much. 

If cooking is your thing, I imagine you might plan a special meal or dish or dessert.  I’m hearing lots of folks are organizing cabinets and closets. In Ohio, one of my sons is renovating his basement and the other has installed new fencing around the property. 

You get the idea. Carrying out a plan brings a sense of pleasure, of satisfaction, however tiny. Job well done, I hope you say to yourself.  That’s really the trick here:  you’re setting yourself up for success. 

I’ll listen to my Pandora playlist for two hours after lunch. 

I’ll scan old photos into my computer for one hour. 

I’ll go for a walk with Woody and Sasha and my mom at 10 a.m. 

I can do these things, I can complete them, accomplish them, and reward myself (with a coveted piece of chocolate, a verbal pat on the back, or  a nice leisurely bubble bath. But do reward yourself; it’s a great way to practice RECEIVING the good things in life.)  


Each evening, as I drift off to sleep, I go back over my day intent on finding three moments that I can feel gratitude for.  Sometimes, I take the easy route; it’s easy to feel grateful for the good things in life. Generally, I try to find something I’ve bitched about, something I really didn’t want or like and find a way to feel grateful for it. Here are two recent ones: 

(1) It snowed last night when I was so looking forward to getting outside and walking again. Our land depends upon precipitation in the spring to refill the underground water table; how fortunate (i.e., grateful) I am that, right on schedule, the sky opens up again. Can’t do anything about the wobbly polar vortex; just ride it out. I could have focused on how pretty the snow was; that seemed too easy. 

Let’s run that photo again: 

Somewhat irrelevant photo. My view out the window May 11, 2020

(2) The store was still out of bleach. I wanted to buy some for safety reasons, just to have on hand. I know that bleach is not good for our septic system; perhaps it’s best we stay away from it. (I’m grateful I didn’t undermine our septic system.) 

It gets easier the more you do it. Until next week (when I plan to post something I wrote  before CoViD took over my life)  remember, 

We’ve got this in the BAG 

How about you? I hope you’ll try these over the next week and report back next week. In the meantime, what stands out for you today? 

22 Responses

  1. Marian Beaman
    | Reply

    I wonder how many readers practiced belly breaths as they read. I know I did! Yesterday I took a walk in the neighborhood with my daughter. I also wrote in my gratitude book, in the morning though.

    Today? Shall I walk again? My right knee hurts, even wearing a support. My piano tuner called wanting to tune my piano. Is it safe to let him in? It’s been more than a year. On thing for sure, I’m enjoying another cool morning, noteworthy because our city this time of year is usually hot.

    You live in a picturesque place. I know you are tired to snow, but it’s so pretty.
    Marian Beaman recently posted…Martin and Suie Kraybill, Pillars of Faith: Post 505My Profile

    • Janet Givens
      | Reply

      Oh yes, that who-do-I-let-into-my-house question. We needed a plumber last week. We let him in. For sure. 🙂 Today was my first actual Spring Cleanup Outside day — got the summer furniture out of the barn and cleaned out the woodshed at the back of the house. But I wore my winter parka while doing it! Tonight is our last below freezing night. Spring is enroute, I can smell it in the air. Hope your knee feels better soon. Thanks Marian.
      Janet Givens recently posted…Keeping the coronavirus in the BAGMy Profile

  2. Laurie Buchanan
    | Reply

    Janet — I love the activity associated with each letter in your BAG acronym. How cool is that?!

  3. susan scott
    | Reply

    Great Janet. I’ve been of advocate of deep belly breaths forever as a calming and balancing technique. I imagine my belly blowing up like a balloon and then slowly letting the air out …
    Action is excellent, but I’m not pushing myself or beating myself up in any way if I don’t accomplish what I thought I might. Tidying up is usually a BIG action, as is baking and cooking, actions that have never been my bag but I’m doing them 🙂 Likewise with exercise, some days more than others.
    Ah gratitude, always …
    I have SAS, which I think is a strain of ADD. Short Attention Span.
    susan scott recently posted…#WATWBMy Profile

    • Janet Givens
      | Reply

      Belly breaths are so easy, so simple, and so relatively unknown in the wider world; I’m glad to hear they’re a part of your everyday life. I start and end my day with them now. Love your SAS acronym, too. Did you ever get the TV comedy show Laugh In over there? Your SAS reminded me I’ve heard it said that it was Laugh In that got people used to immediate gratification, rewarded them for short attention spans with their rapid-fire bits. Interesting hypothesis it always seemed to me. These days, a SAS seems like a real advantage. Hang in there.
      Janet Givens recently posted…Keeping the coronavirus in the BAGMy Profile

  4. Kathleen Pooler
    | Reply

    You are a clever creative, Janet to produce such an exhaustive list. BAG— I love it! I’ve given in to trying to figure it all out and am going with the flow—napping, reading, writing and , perhaps the most important—turning OFF the TV’s constant COVID coverage. Since I’m still on the mend, my extracurricular activities are limited but when the weather is nice, I do venture outside for walk with my walker. Progress, not perfection.
    Kathleen Pooler recently posted…The International Year of the Nurse and Midwife, 2020My Profile

    • Janet Givens
      | Reply

      I envy you your ability (and time) to read, Kathy. I’m finding books don’t hold my attention these days, or I fall asleep. Yours and Marian’s are still on my TBR pile, FYI. I expect there will come a time when we can say, “Remember back when COVID19 was such a problem?” Until then, I salute your decision to turn off the TV. I get the data each day for VT — especially how many new cases, and I jot them down in my “egg book” (how many eggs I get each day). I’m waiting for the trend to start going down significantly. But other than that, I’m boycotting the news. Progress, not perfection indeed. We shall all stay sane and safe and home. Be well, my friend. And hello to Wayne.
      Janet Givens recently posted…Keeping the coronavirus in the BAGMy Profile

  5. Ally Bean
    | Reply

    I know about deep breathing to relax but I don’t know if I do belly breathing. I like your description of it. My action today is to try to get caught up on reading blogs and making some food for dinner. I have fewer things to do today than normal, even during these stay-at-home days. As for gratitude, every time I see or hear my husband, healthy, working from home, I am profoundly grateful for our ability to thrive during this time in history. I like your acronym. Very clever and easy to remember. Thanks.
    Ally Bean recently posted…Photos From A Car Ride On Saturday Afternoon, Just BecauseMy Profile

    • Janet Givens
      | Reply

      Yes, “easy to remember” is my daily goal lately, Ally. I’m glad you like it. Thanks. We have much to be grateful for, even these days. I hope you let your hubs know how grateful you feel. Cheers. And the breathing into the belly (diaphragm) is important because that’s where the vagus nerve runs and that’s really the trick, to stimulate that vagus nerve.
      Janet Givens recently posted…Keeping the coronavirus in the BAGMy Profile

  6. Sherrey Meyer
    | Reply

    Good one, Janet! Love your acronym. And yes, I breathed during your explanation of the belly breath. You are offering here pretty much what we’ve doing since our governor sent the “seniors” into near confinement. It’s not so bad and when I think of the alternative, I’d rather not have COVID-19 sitting on the sofa with me.

    • Janet Givens
      | Reply

      Thank you Sherrey, and welcome. I’m so glad you joined us. I realized I don’t know where you live, so I don’t know which governor you have. I hope you’ll let us know. Yes, the alternative! From what I’m hearing I think I’d rather die than get COVID-19. How lucky we are that we don’t HAVE to go out and about. I try to keep that in mind daily. Stay well, wherever you are. 🙂
      Janet Givens recently posted…Keeping the coronavirus in the BAGMy Profile

  7. Tim Fearnside
    | Reply

    Good stuff, Janet. Lots of action around here, so I’m pretty well covered there, although there are days, usually in-between projects or when the weather isn’t nice, where I’m not entirely sure what to do with myself (or when it all starts feeling repetitive or monotonous). Last weekend, I planted out the rest of my vegetable garden. This week, I’ve been tackling a landscape project. Also, brooding a few young chicks, and still getting out on my bike. Also feeling generally grateful — more so than usual, it seems. Perhaps everything going on has helped with my overall perspective. Belly breaths — that’s something I definitely need to try. I’ve done a bit of yoga on and off (mostly off), but have never stuck to a good breathing/meditation practice. I’ll need to give that a try!

    • Janet Givens
      | Reply

      You are so far ahead of us, Tim. We just had our official “last frost date” on May 15; this year the official was also the actual. So, we’re just beginning to get the gardens prepped. Isn’t that a good achy feeling? And my baby dinosaurs don’t arrive until the 22nd. As for the belly breaths — I find just four at a time suffice to get me grounded again. I tend to eschew anything that leans toward ritual. We shall all get through this, I believe. One way or the other. Thanks for stopping by. Glad to hear all is well over there. Wave hello to Laurie for us, will you?
      Janet Givens recently posted…Keeping the coronavirus in the BAGMy Profile

  8. Bette Stevens
    | Reply

    BAG–wonderful! Filling the BAG one day at a time. 🙂 By the way, I started yoga last fall and continue with the class online Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. Perfect timing. Thanks for a wonderfully inspiring post and a great way to remember to B-A-G up my cares and know I’m not alone! xo

    • Janet Givens
      | Reply

      We are certainly not alone in this, Bette. And how grateful I am that we now can be connected via the Internet. I envy you your yoga. I did yoga for about 10 years and feel it changed my life in many ways, certainly gave me life lessons I’ve never forgotten. Alas, I’ve been advised not to do yoga regularly anymore. Stretches, certainly. But no more yoga for me. So I walk when I don’t swim. Swimming is so rhythmic, it becomes mystical. And walking feels meditative lately. Anyway, thanks so much for stopping. I always appreciate your comments. I love your “filling the BAG, one day at at time.” Indeed.

  9. Darlene Foster
    | Reply

    BAG is a great acronym. I especially like the gratitude part. As soon as I start to feel sorry for myself, I pull out the gratitude card. There is so much to be thankful for in spite of the Coronavirus and resulting lockdown. I was feeling down about not being able to connect with my 91-year-old mother in a care home in Canada. But then I remembered to be thankful she is healthy and safe because of no contact.
    Darlene Foster recently posted…A-R International … Self-Isolating Authors Edition: Part 2My Profile

  10. Joan Z Rough
    | Reply

    Great post, Janet. We’ve lost control (if we ever had it) of so many things, these three are so helpful. Belly Breathing is one of the things that keeps from being an emotional wreck. And remembering to be grateful is something I feel is so important. In this time of Covid and Rage, we need to be thankful for all that we have.

  11. Arlene Smith
    | Reply

    Your snow photos were quite a shock! I needed to do belly breaths after seeing them. Hard to believe that was only a couple of weeks ago. Last week here in Ottawa we had 35 degrees Celsius ( that ‘s 95 F – I had to look it up) with humidity.
    Arlene Smith recently posted…What to do when you miss travellingMy Profile

  12. Janet Morrison
    | Reply

    Great post, Janet. I’m playing catchup today reading blogs. It was good to sit here in my racking chair and take some belly breaths. I like your suggest to think of three new things to do each day.

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