The news is unavoidable and seemingly thrust upon us non-stop these days between television, the internet, newspapers, even social media. Like most people, I want to be informed and know what is going on around the world and here at home, but with a spouse serving in the military, constant news about our troops serving in dangerous locations can be overwhelming and, to put it simply, quite scary. It is tough to balance the need to know with the need to keep a positive outlook and a sense of tranquility and peace at home.
Recently, with the events occurring in the Middle East, our troops are suddenly center-stage, which is a good thing as we want the broader American public to care about our military, but this can also make it difficult to “keep calm and carry on”. As I found myself scrolling through NPR, I noticed that I was holding my breath, literally holding my breath as I read through the articles detailing the latest developments. Even if your spouse is not currently deployed, there is a good chance that as a member of the military community you know someone who is. Our community is small and the life of one service member impacts all of us. Service members are not just anonymous statistics. They are people who choose to go when duty calls leaving behind the people they love, regardless of personal or political beliefs. Those of us who love them are left behind to hold it all together so there is a home to come back to.
So how do we breathe in times of worry and stress? Looking for answers, I did what we so often do as military spouses: I asked a friend. I’ve been fortunate to call Kimberly Bacso my friend since our time together in Germany several years ago. I was able to practice yoga with her so I knew she would be the perfect person to provide guidance on how to stop and take a few minutes to just breathe.
HOW TO BREATHE THROUGH STRESS
Holding your breath is a sign that you’re stressed out or fearful. You might not even notice that you’re holding your breath until you find yourself audibly gasping for air. When you find yourself holding your breath because of distressing news or because of any other stressful event in your day, abdominal breathing can help. It’s one of my favorite breathing techniques because it’s something you can do discreetly anywhere.
When you’re first getting started, place one hand on your heart and one hand on your belly. Inhale through your nose to expand your belly, feeling it pressing against your hand. Exhale through your nose to contract your belly. Repeat at least ten times. Count your breaths to focus your mind. As you breathe, bring attention to the hand at your heart and feel your heart rate start to slow down. When you get comfortable with the technique, you can do the exercise without using your hands. Nobody will notice you’re doing it.
This is a super-fast technique you can use in the moment when you observe stress, but if you have some time, you could perform the exercise longer. Find a quiet place where you can sit undisturbed. Sit cross-legged on the floor or in a straight-backed chair. With your eyes closed, place one hand on your heart and one hand on your belly, or place your hands face down on your knees. Breathe into your abdomen for ten minutes. When your time is up, find the natural rhythm of your breath. Start to observe the sounds around you. Gently open your eyes. Go about your day with more peace. ~Kimberly Bacso
Anna-Liisa is an Army wife, mama of two toddlers, lawyer, and editor. She loves reading, art, all things Finnish, and traveling with her husband and children.