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JUST BREATHE: how this virus is teaching us how to breathe

Updated: Apr 12, 2020

It might seem like a paradox that the effects of a virus that attacks our respiratory system can be prevented by something as simple as breathing. Several experts however are recommending breathing exercises and encouraging us to practice them as a preventive measure to improve our airways in case we get infected.

At an emotional level it might also seem like a paradox that breathing is the number one recommendation to deal with stress and anxiety. And we have a lot of anxiety going around, caused by fear, isolation, and concern with our economies and future.

Whenever we feel overwhelmed by this crisis or profoundly sad by the losses, whenever the angst chokes us because we want to carry on with our lives and we feel like we cannot move forward we should breathe in and breathe out.

Panic and fear make us feel like we cannot breathe, and that’s exactly what we need to do. Breathing improves our blood flow, it increases our energy level, it improves our posture, it reduces inflammation and it stimulates our lymphatic system.

Only 2 months ago I had 6 work trips scheduled for the first semester of 2020 to the US for coaching training and to West Africa for human rights consulting. I had planned workshops, training, field work, coaching sessions, mentor sessions, writing draft laws and reports. Things were moving at a fast pace, go-go-go. Suddenly this virus hit us, changed my plans, forced me to slow down. I’m in isolation with my family. I don't expect to travel anytime soon. I was lucky to keep a part of the work: my remote work. That work includes supporting others to deal with this collective anxiety through coaching. I feel for those who aren’t that lucky.

I see a common trend in my clients and friends: this virus is telling us all to slow down, connect at a deeper level, learn how to deal with uncertainty and be patient. It is forcing us to reinvent ourselves and to answer some fundamental questions, such as who do you want to be in this moment? What are your ultimate values that will help you through this madness?

This virus is full of paradoxes. On one hand, the pandemic made us stay put and forced us to really care about our surroundings, such as our homes and our local communities. On the other hand, if we don't address this issue globally the virus will keep spreading, and eventually come back to us. This shows us that we are all truly connected.

This virus is full of ironies. A lot of us are now bonding with nature in a way we didn’t before, as if we just found out that the planet is sick and that we need to find creative ways to heal it.

Historically chaos has always led to a new order of things. I hope that we can draw lessons from this crisis. I hope that our new normal involves solidarity and cooperation over discord. I hope that the new normal prioritizes physical and mental health over imbalance and rush. Sustainability over excessive consumption. Inclusion over prejudice. Depth over superficiality.

I hope we can learn how to breathe better and together. I hope that breathing will get us through.

Breathe in and breathe out.

Sara Guerreiro is a Professional Certified Coach (PCC), by the International Coach Federation, who splits her time between human rights consulting, training and coaching people around the world. FIND MORE HERE

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