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Catching Our Breath: Breathing, Part 1

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.

We are in no way experts, and if you feel as if you need to, please speak to your doctor sooner rather than later. Many offices are taking the necessary precautions to keep you and their staff safe.

Breathing exercises can be very helpful in resetting your brain and body when you start to feel stressed. Below, we have outlined some starter exercises and tips for you to try; they are, however, no replacement for medical guidance. If you feel as if you should seek medical assistance, please talk to your doctor for further instruction.

Focus: The Exhale

Start with and lengthen your exhale. Don’t just inhale deeply. According to, our breathing is linked to our flight or fight response.[1] The exhale signals your body to relax and by extending it, you don’t work yourself up toward hyperventilating. They suggest starting with an exhale and once you do take a deep breath in, make your exhale longer than your inhale (e.g. if you inhale for four seconds, exhale for six). Count as you inhale and exhale. Try it for two to five minutes.

Focus: The Inhale

When you do inhale, use your diaphragm, not your chest; your chest and shoulders shouldn’t rise much. To make sure, relax your upper body in your chair, or lie on the floor with pillows beneath your head and knees. Place one hand under your rib cage and another over your heart. Breathing through your nose, determine where your breath is coming from; if your stomach moves more than your chest, you’re using your diaphragm. If you need to practice this, move your hand that is placed under your rib cage over your belly button and really focus on your movement while you breathe. For this breathing exercise to be more natural, you’ll need to practice for up to minutes three or four times a day.

General Notes

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.[2] 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 aspiring 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

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