TIME TO BREATHE by Therese Tappouni
Stress had its way with America during this election. Though we are now taking stock and asking what’s next, we need to pause, regroup and heal. For those who do not know me well, my work involves teaching grief recovery, stress recovery and the spiritual path known as the everyday life. I counsel those who are grieving their losses and learning to move on. I’ve written many times that this schism in our country is causing grief, which expresses as depression, stress and anger.
This morning I awoke to the news of another horrific mass shooting. This article is not specifically about that—I have written about this subject often—but grief expresses in the body exactly the same way whether it’s the loss of people, the loss of a belief, or the horrific violence we see on the news. Survivors suffer and the everyday citizen suffers, wondering if today it will be their community. My plan is to focus for the next few weeks on tools we need to have for our bodies, minds, and spirits to survive this onslaught. Today’s subject is post-election stress.
The massive amounts of money in this election provided a plethora of ads, inundating us day and night. They reminded me of the Goldwater/Johnson era where fear-mongering and outright lies got shocked attention. Now it is the so-called “new normal” and shock was mostly absent. A big job awaits those who want to reengage with civility and, for that, we must rest. We are hopeful that the influx of women of all stripes will modify the day-to-day awfulness of D.C. but that is a big expectation. It took us a long time to get here and learning to be civil and communicate with one another for the good of our country will take time. Since patience is called for, and we are not known for that, I begin with simple tools to help us in the moment, and in the long term.
As a Certified HeartMath® Trainer, Somatic Intuitive Training Pracitioner and Grief Counselor, I have many scientific and spiritual tools I use with my clients and in my workshops, but the commitment must be made by the client. We have to want to give up the adrenalin rush of argument, attack and, in some cases, hate. I don’t have expectations that haters will come to the civility table, but those of us who are burned out on negative energy are ready to give it a try. My next few blogs will provide skills that build on one another, so be patient. We have to start with good intentions, but after that? It’s a daily choice to go with our better angels or our worst instincts. First we have to recognize that our energy extends out from our body and creates a field that impacts others, whether we speak or not. So being aware of that field is a number one priority.
This first tool, taught from gurus to business consultants, is to breathe properly. It is now our nature to breathe shallowly, high in the chest, which does not activate the positive effects of breathing. The ways babies and puppies breathe are good models. In addition, pausing to notice our breathing gives us that “choice point” where we can pause and make a different decision when things are going in the wrong direction. It’s an especially good tool for couples who have different points of view or at work where decisions are on the table and personalities differ hugely. Taking time to do this before we enter a tense situation is a great option.
First, relax your shoulders and focus your attention in the area of your heart. Now imagine your breath is flowing in and out of your chest area, breathing a little slower and deeper than usual. (The heart is not a valentine, it is a strong, smart, capable organ that holds our life in its beating.)
Second, if you like, count to five on the inhale, five on the exhale. (I often recommend imagining the breath as a color and seeing it suffuse your entire heart.)
Yes, it’s that simple. Delete the idea that if it’s not hard it doesn’t work. Do this every time you think of it—before you get out of bed, throughout the day, in traffic, in meetings, when on a deadline, and, finally, before bed. This should become a habit that comes naturally in a week or so. With stress, the tools are simple, but they require your cooperation and desire to heal. I welcome all comments.