Coping with big emotions is a challenge. For us, big emotions feel urgent and overwhelming. When we struggle to catch our breath, many of our traumas are triggered.
Breath is so underrated. A deep inhale followed by a big sigh or prolonged exhale can feel so restorative. In fact, catching our breath is the goal when we are overwhelmed. Breathing deeply and more slowly restores our balance.
But getting from hyperventilating or shallow breathing or not being able to catch our breath to deep, slow breathing is like the journey from clinging to a 1,000-foot cliff with one hand to resting safely on land.
Meditation has not proven effective recently. In fact, it has felt triggering! Imagining an open sky and breathing into it, as well as metta, remind us of how much we have lost since Covid started; namely, space to practice.
We think meditation can evolve. So we can try new visualizations, try new phrases, or try to reclaim the prior ones by practicing when we’re not in distress. That is probably the reason we are losing these skills: lack of practice.
We seem able to practice only when we’re alone at home. How often were we alone at home during the past 14 months? Not even once per month! We could try to change the circumstances under which we can practice.
Really, being outside with the prairie we are planting is a form of meditation with a real destination instead of imagined. Now that the weather has warmed up, plants are growing and bugs will come. This will help us use our senses to practice presence. This helps out breathing, too.
We are still practicing Nonviolent Communication and compassion. We keep trying to learn and incorporate compassionate practices into daily life.
But it takes so long to catch our breath! We don’t take magic pills anymore. T-2 suggested we consider PRN meds. But having been told we were addicted and then forcibly weaned off during a global pandemic and having so little support makes us not want to go back to pills.
But waiting 50-90 minutes to calm ourselves down is really putting pressure on us to self-harm or escape our self-medicate. So we think practicing while not panicked is the key. We had forgotten this important step because Covid acculturated us to survival mode.
We will have to use time alone, which may grow now that our family is vaccinated (meaning people are more likely to leave home for errands or friends), to practice.
We state the intention to try to practice deep breathing when we find ourselves alone—especially when we are not in distress.