Don’t Forget to Breathe

By Jennifer Buehrer, LMSW

Don’t forget to breathe…a phrase commonly used in the practice of meditation, yoga and, of course, childbirth. Outside of those circles this phrase can sound cliché, and much too simple to take seriously. But the truth is, it works.

Right now – take a minute or two to stop what you’re doing and take 2-3 deep, slow breaths. Once you’ve done that, pause another minute to notice how your body feels. Do you feel it? When I take the time to do this, I can feel my pulse slow down, and even feel the endorphins flow from my brain down through the rest of my body. There’s a reason that when we’re stressed, we tend to sigh. It’s our brain telling us to breathe.

Breathing is something most of us take for granted every day. I mean, how could we function if we were always paying attention to such a constant, essential function of our bodies? But watching what so many of our patients are going through during this pandemic gives me reason to pause and consider it a bit more often. How an invisible, microscopic organism can rob us of our most basic life-giving function is a mystery to me. But each breath I take is another reminder of how fleeting this most basic function can be.

Last week I wrote about slowing down and being intentional about how we resume our lives after this pandemic. It struck a chord with a lot of you, and I am grateful for that. Now let’s talk about extending that intention to the idea that life itself is not something to be taken for granted. The delicate nature of our breath is a metaphor for the delicate nature of life… and awareness of that can bring everything into perspective.

We’re all working our tails off to get our community through this crisis. Coming out of this alive is a big win, for all of us. Stop, take a breath or two, and recognize that. Maybe even pat yourself on the back (if that’s hard for you to do, then yoga might help). While we’re at it, let’s take a moment each day to thank each other for the part each of us plays in helping our community survive this. Every breath is a reminder of our success.

Jennifer Buehrer, LMSW, is a palliative care social worker at St. Joseph Mercy Ann Arbor.