by Lisa S. Wzorek, MA, OTR/L
As we enter another month in quarantine due to Covid-19 and our focus on maintaining our physical health continues, what about our mental health? Making sure we are mentally healthy is equally important, and many of us are facing challenges in doing just this. Our mental health is being challenged whether you are an essential worker and must be away from your family, or you are a stay at home parent navigating distance learning or are working from home while navigating distance learning with your children. Maybe you have a child with special needs or medical needs that causes you extra worry during this time. These, and there are many more, can challenge the mental health of any individual.
May is Mental Health Month, and I wanted to talk about this very important issue. Our mental health is always important but seems to be extra important during the Covid-19 quarantine. But let’s talk about it from the perspective of maintaining mental health of an occupational therapist. Occupational Therapists see “occupations” as a way to health and well-being. Occupations are not just our “job”, but the things we do throughout the day. These could be our morning routines, caring for our children, distance learning, exercising, leisure activities, etc. To help us engage in our occupations throughout the day, I’m suggesting that we take a few moments to focus on our breathing. Breathing sounds like such a simple and basic thing, but how we breath can have either a negative or positive effect on our well-being. We don’t pay much attention to our breath, but if you take a moment to do so right now, you may notice that your breathing is short and shallow. What if you expand that breath, taking in a full deep breath and feel your lungs fill? How does this make you feel? Often when we are stressed, angry, frustrated, sad, etc., our breath becomes shallow. Taking some deep breaths can help calm the mind and the body before we act on our feelings. Being in a more calm and relaxed state can help us engage in our occupations more successfully and purposefully.
Here are some guided breathing exercises that you can do yourself and with your children that are already posted on YouTube. The videos are short, 3-5 minutes. Doing these breathing exercises at the start of the day, when you are feeling stressed or frustrated, or just needing a break, can help you power through the next few hours of your day. I hope you will try them and let me know what you think! Let’s keep a focus on our mental health!
Videos for breathing exercises:
“Stop, breathe and think” by Mindful Breathing
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SEfs5TJZ6Nk Guided breathing exercises
2:1 Breathing by Tufts Medical Center
5 finger breathing by Mindful Breathing
4-7-8 Breathing-geared to kids by Fablefly
Rainbow Breathing by Go Noodle
Breathing and Stretching by Moovlee
*For very young children, you can practice “smelling the flowers, hold 1-2-3, blow out the candles”