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Take a Breath


Most of us experience any number of emotions from day to day. Experiencing negative emotions, especially when under stress, is part of the human experience; however, if left unprocessed or unacknowledged, they can cause harm physically and emotionally. Prolonged crises, such as the ones we have experienced due to COVID, and any form of significant life transition can lead to long-term and toxic stress. This type of stress can be especially amplified among people who were already experiencing significant life challenges, chronic health or mental health conditions, and disabilities. 

Research has found that breathing practices are effective at reducing stress, balancing our energy and emotions, and helping us process some of the more challenging feelings that can arise. But incorporating self-care, such as breathing, into our busy lives is easier said than done and may also be particularly challenging for people who have experienced trauma.

Being gentle with ourselves by setting boundaries and limits that support our mental health may be the most important self-care act of all. As author Brianna Wiest says: “Self-care should not be something we resort to because we are so absolutely exhausted that we need some reprieve from our own relentless internal pressure. True self-care is not salt baths and chocolate cake, it is making the choice to build a life you don’t need to regularly escape from.”

But changing the expectations of ourselves and others takes time and practice. Starting with small actions can be a good way to begin. For example, try out one of the breathing exercises below or mindful breathing, which has been known to reduce feelings of stress and anxiety.

Belly Breathing:

It may sound strange, but many people forget how to breathe properly, using their chest and shoulders to breathe, resulting in short and shallow breaths which can increase stress and anxiety! When you breathe, your belly should expand, involving your diaphragm, a large muscle in your abdomen. This type of breathing is known as diaphragmatic, or belly breathing and can lower stress levels, reduce blood pressure, lower our heart rate, and help us relax. Belly Breathing is at the center of the practice of meditation which is known to help manage symptoms of depression, anxiety, and sleeplessness.

Download, share and watch the 30-second Belly Breathing Animation, which can be found here:

Color Breathing

Visualize a color that represents how you want to feel, imagine inhaling that color in. Visualize a color that represents what you want to let go of, imagine exhaling that color out.

4-7-8 Breathing Technique

Otherwise known as “relaxing breath”, 4-7-8 breathing, is a simple breathing exercise that can be done anywhere, anytime to aid in stress reduction, grounding, and even sleep. Inhale for a count of 7, hold for a county of 4, and then exhale for a county of 8!  Download and share the 4-7-8 Breathing Card and Social Media post.

Square Breathing

One of the most common breathing exercises is referred to as square breathing which is the act of breathing in the form of a square! Inhale 2…3…4… hold 2…3…4!  Download and share the Square Breathing Card and Social Media post.

Connect with thousands throughout the country during Suicide Prevention Week by using the hashtags #SuicidePrevention #SuicidePreventionMonth #WorldSuicidePreventionDay

If you or someone you know is at risk of suicide, please contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 (TALK).

This information is from:

Stephanie Hess

MHSA Programs Coordinator

Amador County Behavioral Health Services