MOD DOC - Self Care While Practicing Social Distancing

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During this stressful time, it is important that we continue to exercise self-care. For many it may also be an ideal time to begin to develop some simple ways to care for yourself and in turn, better care for your friends and family.

Here is a short introduction to MOD LIFE - DOC. Click to View Video

Let’s first focus on deep breathing as a form of stress relief and the foundation of several other self-care practices such as yoga, qigong, tai-chai and meditation. 

The key to developing any disciplined self-care practice is planning and consistency.  While it may be tempting to simply do these as exercises wherever you are and whenever you can, this will not set you up to make this a disciplined practice.  Therefore, before you get started: Choose a regular place, routine times and please don't make yourself more stressed in the process!


Deep Breathing

Deep breathing “can help intense sensations, experiences, and emotions feel less threatening. Deep breathing brings awareness which can help us to breathe mindfully, noticing that life is a thread of moments, woven together that come and go,” said Juli Fraga a clinical psychologist with training in mindfulness-based stress reduction and mindful parenting.

As a newborn medicine doctor, I was always fascinated by how normal newborns breath. When they are on their back, their chest gently rises, and their belly expands as they breath in through their nose. When they exhale their belly contracts and their chest gently falls. While I could go on and on about the fine points of newborn respiratory physiology, I suffice to say that this instinctual pattern of diaphragmatic breathing allows for optimal lung expansion and gas exchange allowing them to efficiently expel CO2 and to bring in oxygen to be delivered to the brain and other organs.

As we age, and our body begins to respond to stress, our breathing becomes shallower. We take in less air and our bodies get into a vicious cycle where the shallower we breathe the more stressed we get, and then in turn we continue to take shallow breathes.
“Shallow breathing doesn’t just make stress a response, it makes stress a habit our bodies, and therefore, our minds, are locked into,” says John Luckovich, an apprentice Integrative Breathwork facilitator in Brooklyn, New York. He further elaborates that “the chronic stress that is associated with shallow breathing results in lower amounts of lymphocyte, a type of white blood cell that helps to defend the body from invading organisms and lowers the amounts of proteins that signal other immune cells. The body is then susceptible to contracting acute illnesses, aggravating pre-existing medical conditions, and prolonging healing times.”
It is this cyclical state of stress that we are looking to break in the deep breathing practice. Let's get started! 

Focus On Your Breath (1st Step)

  1. Lie on your back with a pillow under their head and knees.
  2. Place one hand on your stomach and the other hand on your chest.
  3. Breathe in through your nose and feel your belly pressing into your hand while keeping the hand on your chest as still as possible.
  4. Breathe out tightening your stomach muscles, feeling your stomach lower and keeping your hand on your chest as still as possible.
  5. Do this for 5 to 10 minutes, 3 to 4 times per day
To elevate your breathwork and self-care journey, focus on lengthening our exhale. 
Inhaling is linked to our sympathetic nervous system. This part of our nervous system is always preparing for “fight or flight” and it makes sense that our body would want to take in as much air as possible to get ready.  However, exhaling is linked to our parasympathetic nervous system, which allows our body to relax and be calm.  This is why it is important to learn to exhale properly as we develop a healthy breathing practice.  Also, by fully exhaling you are creating space in your lungs to optimize the exchange of oxygen into your blood stream when you inhale. 

Now that you have had some practice with deep breathings, let’s get started with learning to lengthen your exhale.

Lengthen Your Exhale (2nd Step)

  1. Before you take a deep breath, push all the air out of your lungs.
  2. As you inhale count to 4.
  3. Now as you exhale count to 6.
  4. Start out doing this for 2 to 5 minutes 3 to 4 times per day.
Be well and remember that self-care is not selfish.

Written By:  Dr. Charles Anderson MD, Johns Hopkins and Harvard Trained Pediatrics, Newborn ICU Physician, Modern Acupuncture Medical Strategic Partner

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