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.
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 doxy.me, 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:
(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?