Are there any quick mindfulness and self-care breathing exercises for healthcare professionals?
As humans, we tend to ruminate on the past, or project into the future. Being in the present is very difficult for us. A reptile or a mammal has to be in the present to survive; they have to be constantly assessing the threat. For humans, we no longer have to do that, we do not have to be in the present moment. We can ruminate on the past, project into the future, and still survive. Mindfulness is the practice of being fully present at the moment; noticing your thoughts and letting them go without any judgment. Mindfulness is a practice which is similar to meditation. This is very important in the healthcare professions as patients come to us in distress or with a problem. They come to us seeking help or healing.
Moving the body and breath at the same time helps ground our brainstem (e.g., primitive brain), and allows us to pull into our cortex (e.g., thinking brain). This stimulates our body into a rhythm that allows us to calm down and to be in the present moment. Below are a few breathing exercises that can be used on your own as self-care and can be shared with those that you serve and work with.
Take 5 Breath. This breathing exercise is very simple. Take your hand, with your other index finger start tracing at the base of the thumb. Inhale up the thumb and exhale down. Inhale up the index finger and exhale down. Inhale up the middle finger and exhale down. Inhale up the ring finger and exhale down. Then inhale up the pinky finger and exhale down. You can put your hand on your chest, lap or in your pocket, and just feel your fingers.
Elevator Breath. Inhale, bringing your shoulders all the way up to your ears, and on the exhale let it drop. Repeat.
Lions Breath. A fun breathing exercise that everyone enjoys because you might look silly doing it. With both feet flat on the floor and hands on top of the thighs, we are going to take a nice deep inhale through the nose, and on the exhale, we are going to stick our tongue out as far as we can and roar like a lion. Repeat the exercise. Sticking the tongue out of the mouth allows the jaw to relax just a little bit.
Birthday cake breath. Imagine your birthday cake, try to picture what kind of cake it is (i.e., vanilla, chocolate, etc.). Then take a nice deep inhale and on the exhale blow out the candles nice and slow. Repeat.
This Ask the Expert is an excerpt from the webinar, Stress, Trauma, and Mindfulness: Self-Care for Healthcare Professionals.