Take a Breath

Living life with constant uncertainty takes a toll on our health as we need to adjust our schedules to suit the latest government policy. Over the last couple years we have had multiple disruptions to our daily routines as businesses have had to close; some permanently. Schools and work have gone online, placing extra stress on families and travel restrictions seem to shift almost daily. New variants, coupled with changing rules create fear and anxiety. 
These emotions manifest in the body as tension, headaches and discomfort. Wearing masks all the time causes shallow breathing through our mouth; instead of our nose. If these symptoms sound familiar, then pay attention to your breath as soon as your mask comes off at home, during mealtimes, or outside. Inhale deeply through your nose, filling your abdomen with air and gently exhale. If you are not used to breathing from your abdomen, it helps to place your hands on your stomach to watch them rise and fall as you gently inhale and exhale. Once you have mastered this technique, you can visualize your muscles and nerves stretching on inhalation and relaxing upon exhaling. Word of caution, at first the extra oxygen may cause dizziness, thus be in a safe and comfortable spot before continuing. 
As social creatures, people need to be in contact with others to stay healthy, however the COVID-19 restrictions have limited our ability to associate with friends, family, acquaintances and even people we would see at stores or the gym. It’s not surprising to see health negatively impacted with increased anxiety as a result of social isolation. Body treatments in a quiet, serene environment can calm the nervous system to ease physical and emotional symptoms. Most sessions are booked for an hour where clients have contact with another person. We often don’t realize how much stress is present until the stress is gone. 
Many insurance companies cover a wide variety of services, making it easier for their clients to find suitable treatments. Part of the process to develop coping skills is to experience something new in a controlled environment. This helps our cognitive flexibility, the brain’s ability to adapt to new circumstances and situations. The change can be as simple as adding an Infrared sauna session to an existing appointment or as radical as challenging a fear of needles by booking an acupuncture treatment. Telling someone you had Fire Cupping is an instant conversation starter. If you are unsure about what Manual osteopathy entails, sessions can be booked for fifteen minutes. Our bodies are so complex that perhaps another style of massage with a different therapist will open up new possibilities for better health.
To maintain the wonderful relaxed feeling once you leave the clinic, if you are a fan of baths, soaking in epsom salts reduces muscle fatigue due to its magnesium content. Urban Wellness has their own unique blend of Skullcap, rose petals, elderberries, oat straw, lemon balm, pink Himalayan sea salt, sea salt and epsom salt. Each component supports your body. Rose petals are great for the skin, skullcap and lemon balm soothing the nervous system, while oat straw improves circulation and elderberries are full of antioxidants. 
The salt blend is also available without additives, allowing you to customize your bath salts. Adding essential oils, such as lavender and bergamot (think Earl Grey tea) are known to have relaxation properties that can also be purchased at Urban Wellness separately or as part of a special blend. Word of caution though, never apply undiluted essential oils directly onto skin and be aware that some people have allergic reactions to certain oils. Use a tester to try before you buy. 
If you don’t like baths, you can still benefit from essential oils. Placed in a diffuser or massage oil at home will allow the nerves to relax, especially when coupled with mindfulness or light stretching. It can be difficult to carve out a separate time during the day, but right before bed setting the intention to let all the daily stress go with a few deep breaths may also encourage better sleep. When inhaling, see if you can smell the essential oil and when exhaling feel the support of your mattress, texture of your sheets and firmness of your pillow. Self care between appointments doesn’t have to be complicated. 
Mindfulness is a skill that needs practice, but the benefits make it worthwhile. The simple action of feeling emotions in the present moment, rather than pushing them away, reduces the overall effects of anxiety. To reduce feelings of uncertainty, we acknowledge and name what we feel in the moment. Building on the skills above, once we know what we are feeling we can take deep belly breaths to confidently connect with emotion, accepting the message that the feelings are trying to protect us. If essential oils are handy we can use those scents to help us ground and if they are not, remembering our last massage experience or other pleasant memories to relax. 
The last couple years have been difficult for everyone as the world has become less predictable and more divisive. To develop the necessary coping skills, we need to remember to be kind to each other to create a sense of safety. We are all doing our best to navigate situations that constantly change. Practicing mindfulness and looking after ourselves gives us a fighting chance to stay healthy and grounded, during these trying times. And if you’re struggling just remember to take a deep breath.
Sima Chowdhury is the author of Mindful Meditation: Meditation and Mindfulness Interventions to Improve Health and Wellbeing available on Amazon https://www.amazon.ca/dp/B09MYSV4S3

“Be deliriously happy and madly in love with the moments that make up your life”
Author Profile: amazon.com/author/simachowdhury

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