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Are you breathing?

Eva Hagberg Fisher

“Are you breathing? Are you lucky enough to be breathing?” 
-Hetti Jones. 

“Take a deep breath,” is the most common advice given to people who are panicking. And panicking is the most common reaction to uncertainty—like a complex multisystem illness like Lyme Disease or mast cell activation or fibromyalgia or chronic fatigue syndrome/myalgic encephalomyelitis/or some combination of all of the above. We don’t have a single client who doesn’t struggle with serious anxiety. 

What we have discovered, though, is that illness and anxiety go together like a peanut butter and jelly sandwich which, if you know a bit about digestion, you know is actually a *terrible* combination. 

The bread is your body, healing is the peanut butter and panic is the jelly. Panic is your disease’s best friend. . . illness feeds off of it. We know, it seems almost counterproductive to be calm. “We need solutions, RIGHT NOW!!!”  your brain is screaming.

But even if we had all the knowledge and solutions in the world, it doesn’t necessarily make us *feel better* in the moment. It can send some of us into an even deeper K-hole of panic, because now we know that panicking is making us sicker, and we are doing harm to our body. LOL. We know this cycle so well. What a piece of garbage cycle. So how do we put the brakes on and take a few deep breaths, breaths that actually help? 

Here’s our simple approach: 

1.) PAUSE what you’re doing. Which is likely googling and trying to FIGURE OUT what the hell is wrong with you. Or making 1,000 phone calls also trying to figure out what is wrong, OR just obsessing in your bed. Hit pause— Google isn’t going anywhere nor is your obsession and nor is your DRIVE to get better. You do not need anxiety to propel you forward. You can get well, take action, and stay calm all at once. Gently put it down for a minute. Just a minute. In fact, we suggest setting an alarm for two times during the day. When the alarm goes off, it’s time to breathe (take your medicine). 

2.) Find a comfortable seated position or lie down. Consciously feel what it is you’re sitting on or lying on. Feel your weight sink into whatever is holding you. 

3.) Now for the breathing: you can find many guided meditations, or use our favorite anxiety release app, or you can just breathe—eyes opened or closed—whatever works for you, today. 

4.) Pull the air in through your nose, slowly,  and let all of the fresh, calm air fill your rib cage and your chest. Feel your body and your ribcage expand. Put your hands on the top of your ribcage, and feel that connection that you have with your own body. It might be feeling like an enemy lately, but it’s been working *so hard* for you. As you exhale, experience your body’s release: your rib cage deflates like a balloon does, your chest falls, your shoulders relax, your body gets heavy until you naturally go to take another breath. Take notice of how well your body is working. It breathes for you! Thank it for all of the health is has and all of the work it’s doing. Give yourself at least three breaths. 

5.) Wiggle your fingers and toes and notice any differences. 

You might not feel like the Dalai Lama— you might still feel like you’re being chased by a lion. And/or you may be driven to SCREAM because being in your body sucks. So scream. Your body is asking for a release from the tension of anxiety. That is much more productive than staying in the K-hole of Infinite Google and Fear. 

Once you practice this enough (we are talking two minutes a day!), you will start consciously breathing more throughout the day: while you watch TV, eat dinner, read, sit at the doctor’s office, AND even when you’re having a WebMD party. And your illness will not like it. In fact, it may just get bored of the calm environment you’ve created. 

Imagine that? 

With support and healing, 

Eva and Jackie