Catching Our Breath
Content Warning: In this article, we discuss the impact of anxiety and depression, including self-harm and suicide. Contact information for National Suicide Prevention Lifeline and crisis counselors are listed at the end of the article. If you are thinking about suicide or are with someone who is, please utilize those resources. You and your loved ones are too precious to lose.
Anxiety and depression are no joke. Between COVID and the season, numbers are on the rise. We want to provide some very basic exercises and information we hope will help you manage your situation to the best of your ability.
Make sure your breathing is focused and slow. This is the only way that we can kick anxiety in the butt. Quiet yourself and your environment if possible and make yourself comfortable. Make a mental note of how your body feels when you breathe normally. Take a deep breath in through your nose, keeping your inhale slow. Remember to use your diaphragm. When you’re ready, exhale through your nose or mouth. Keep your attention fixed on the movement of your stomach. If you are easily distracted, use a word or phrase to keep your attention fixed on you and your breathing. Visualize your inhales and exhales like a wave that carries peace in and negativity out. Don’t get angry with yourself if you get distracted; use your word or phrase or even gentle movement to bring your attention back.
If you are able, lie down and close your eyes. Inhale through your nose for six seconds. Don’t fill your lungs full of air. Exhale naturally for six seconds; don’t force the air out. Just be still and focus on your body.
According to verywellhealth.com, you may need to practice these breathing techniques for up to twenty even thirty minutes a day. That can seem like a lot, but if you break it down into ten- or even five-minute chunks, you could be on your way to reducing stress and anxiety.
Another technique is called 4-7-8. To start, sit up straight. Place and keep the tip of your tongue on the edge of tissue behind your teeth for the whole exercise. Breathe out through your mouth quickly and completely, making a whooshing noise. Close your mouth and inhale quietly though your nose for four seconds (count in your head). Hold your breath for seven seconds. Exhale back through your mouth completely, making another whooshing sound for eight seconds.
Talk to your doctor about your mental health. No, actually do it. If you’re finding that your anxiety is producing irrational fears, seriously impacting your sleeping or eating or drinking habits, you begin having self-harm or suicidal thoughts, or you start to feel like you are no longer in control, sweetheart, please talk to your doctor.
If you or a loved one is talking about self-harm and/or suicide, talk with someone, text TALK to 741741, or call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline 24/7 at 800-273-8255. If you are hard of hearing, you can call 800-799-4889. We know that so much contributes to anxiety and depression, including socioeconomic situations we can’t cover here. These exercises are solely a way to try and control your situation internally.
Sarah Hixson (she/her/hers) is an emerging curator and educator focusing on DEAI and indigenization work and incorporating activism into museum practices. If you have questions for Sarah, please comment below or send an email to email@example.com.
 Marta Kelly, "10 Easy Breathing Exercises for Anxiety", February 11, 2021. Verywellhealth.com. https://www.verywellhealth.com/breathing-exercises-for-anxiety-5088091  Marta Kelly, "10 Easy Breathing Exercises for Anxiety".  Amanda Barrell, "5 breathing exercises for anxiety and how to do them", June 2, 2020. Medicalnewstoday.com. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/breathing-exercises-for-anxiety