It’s been a rollercoaster week of coronavirus panic, hoarding, closings, strict social distancing and economic turmoil. It’s left many of us, including me, reeling.

So often when we feel stressed, panicked or anxious, we forget to breathe.

Yet, one of the best ways to calm the body is to breathe. Slowly. Deeply (from the diaphragm, NOT the chest/throat). Inhale and exhale through the nose.

Panic, high anxiety and overwhelm triggers the sympathetic nervous system, putting us in high alert, “fight or flight” mode.

Staying in a constant state of high stress WEAKENS YOUR IMMUNE SYSTEM.

Why? Because the sympathetic nervous system (the part of the autonomic nervous system that regulates the fight or flight response) metaphorically “rallies the troops” when it perceives a dangerous / stressful situation…for example, our heart rate, pulse and breathing quicken; stress hormones flood the body; and, our digestive system, as well as our libido, shut down to conserve energy so that energy can be sent to where it’s most needed. For example, blood is sent to the muscles in case we need to flee.

On the other hand, the parasympathetic nervous system is the part of the autonomic nervous system that helps calm the body down. When you are in a parasympathetic state, your blood pressure and breathing return to normal; your stress hormones lower; and, in this calm state, your body is able to “rest and digest” and sexual response returns—now that the perceived threat is gone.

Deep breathing, especially through the nose, helps bring the body back into a parasympathetic state. I’ve been doing a lot of this lately. Mindful breathing helps you stay in the present. Anxiety and overwhelm can pull us down into a never-ending black hole of “what ifs”—living in an imaginary future.  Stay present. Breathe. Know that, in this present moment, you are SAFE.