Updated: Jul 4, 2022
Anyone who has followed me for a while, will know that I have not had a pretty time of it when it comes to covid.
The first infection, literally at the time of the first UK national lockdown, was such a horrendous experience for me that I ended up with PTSD from it.
So I have lived in fear of the moment I may have to revisit that dark place.
We have had numerous positives tests in our house over the last couple of years since but somehow, miraculously, my own have remained stubbornly clear.
I had even begun to wonder if my horrific initial battle with it and the long two years of 'long covid' that followed, had somehow made me immune to catching it again.
But I guess it was inevitable and last week I felt the all-too-familiar aches spreading deep into my back. I came home for a rest, woke up 2 hours later with a burning fever and I just knew.
My husband was driving a train and I couldn't get hold of him, so I called one of my best friends. As soon as she answered I burst into loud sobs of sheer panic and terror. A very snotty and total loss of control!
Thankfully she is used to me and very firmly and calmly started telling me this time would be different. I had nothing to fear. I was vaccinated. I would be ok. It was a different strain.
While she talked and I was taking in what she was saying, I noticed that I had instinctively started to slow down my exhales. Within 5 minutes I was completely back in control, all danger of hyperventilating gone.
This is a huge change from the person who was dealing with the first round of covid and over the last week I have realised how deeply entrenched and important my small daily breathing routines have become.
One of the most debilitating symptoms that I suffered from for a long time, was when I was drifting off to sleep, for months and months afterwards, I would lurch awake repeatedly convinced my heart had just stopped.
My heart rate would then shoot through the roof and I would lie there feeling the pounding and tightness in my chest and wondering if this would be the night when my body would finally give up on me.
Absolutely nothing helped and I ended up on a heady mix of beta blockers, antidepressants and antihistamines that the doctors hoped would gradually calm my nervous system and enable me to sleep more soundly.
Anyone who has or is suffering from palpitations, as one of their perimenopause symptoms, will probably have experienced similar things during the day and/or night caused by their fluctuating hormones.
If you don't know the cause it can be terrifying and even if you do know what is causing it, the exhaustion you feel from being woken up by that and/or night sweats over and over again can leave you completely wrung out physically and emotionally.
I didn't have a toolbox of breathing exercises to fall back on then and I certainly hadn't embedded mindful habits into my life in any way that would have made a difference.
Fast forward to now and it is a very different terrain.
I never sit for an hour and meditate, that just isn't for me.
(Yet! Never say never after all - if you had told me 5 years ago that I would now be a yoga teacher I would have spat my wine out laughing so hard).
But I do dedicate around 5-6 minutes most days (sometimes broken down into 2/3 chunks) to breathing deeply in the present moment.
It is something so simple. It is something free. It is something that you need no equipment for. It is something literally everyone can do.
But until this last week I didn't realise how fundamentally embedded into my psyche it has become and how important it is for my health.
It helped me deal with the news that bloody covid was back and, aside from that brief 5 minutes, I have mostly been very calm as I have gone to battle with the bastard virus again.
And when I jerked awake two nights ago coz my heart rate was spiking, rather than spiralling out of control, I immediately started doing my box breathing exercise and within 10 minutes I was fast asleep again.
So, my best advice for you?
Rather than waiting until you are next in crisis, start a breathing practice TODAY.
Be grateful for it.
Learn to love it.
Understand the importance of it.
Recognise that these small daily moments can total up to big differences when the going gets tough.
Here are the 3 easy small ways to incorporate breathing into your daily routine:
When you wake up - don't reach for your phone! Make sure the first thing you do every morning is take a lovely luxurious stretch and 8-10 deep full breaths.
When you boil the kettle for your afternoon cuppa - don't reach for your phone! Use the time it takes to boil to place your hands on your belly and inhale/exhale deeply.
When you get into bed at night - don't reach for your phone! Close your eyes, get comfy, then do the following exercise for 4 rounds:
Inhale through your nose for the count of 4
Hold your breath for the count of 7
Exhale through your mouth for the count of 8
I am going to stop there as I need an afternoon nap but I hope this helps someone who may need it today.