Breathe is the simplest and most important word in the English language. The word breathe incites eye rolls in many of my clients. The thing about breathing is, of course, we all do it, but most of us put minimal effort into paying attention to how our breath impacts our nervous system. Slow intake with a longer outtake can help adjust even the most agitated person. The trick becomes how to keep your mind focused on breathing and away from more anxiety-provoking thoughts. A new twist to traditional cognitive-based therapy is the perspective that autonomic nervous system awareness needs to come before cognitive analysis. Step one is the identification of what is happening in your body with bonus points for awareness of other people in your proximity’s nervous systems. Awareness of breathing and nervous system responses helps us be conscious of the overall impact one person has on another. A regulated response often regulates another. Regulation is, in its most simplistic definition, the ability to stay calm and centered regardless of chaos or dysregulation around you.

A good place to test your skills is in an airport. I travel frequently when the world isn’t shut down, and I travel with a watch that helps me monitor my heart rate. It causes me to breathe in a regulated manner and supports me in staying regulated. For me to be regulated, my heart rate should be around 58 beats. If I go below 50, I am shutting down and believe it or not becoming angry. Too high a heart rate, 78 and above means I am really off the mark. A simple game of keeping my heart rate in a comfortable place has taught me how to concentrate on what my body feels before my brain hijacks me into a place of frustration and intolerance.