The Covid-19 pandemic has affected us all in ways we may never fully realize until, well, it’s fully over. For this week’s Friday Sessions, we spoke with Dr. James Gordon, M.D., the founder and executive director of the Center for Mind Body Medicine, about the trauma we’re all experiencing as a result of the pandemic—and how simple breathing techniques might help alleviate the effects.
First, it’s important to recognize how trauma from the pandemic can manifest itself; trauma can do more than just impact our day-to-day moods. According to Dr. Gordon, many of us amid pandemic are in fight-or-flight mode, which affects our health overall. “What happens is heart rates goes up, blood pressure goes up, digestion doesn’t work so well, big muscles get tense, [and] the area of the brain responsible for fear and anger, the amygdala, is firing like crazy,” he says. All of this this can impact your ability to sleep, concentrate, or simply how you behave.
“All of us … have been in that mode and some of us have been at a low or not-so-low mode all the time [during the pandemic]. I was working with people frontline, police and other frontline workers yesterday, and virtually every one, you could see it. You could see the tension. You could see the knees jumping up and down.”
To combat the effects of Covid-related trauma, Dr. Gordon has several techniques he’s used with thousands of veterans and police officers. The first is likely familiar: deep-breathing.
“In through the nose, out through the mouth, with the belly soft and relaxed. This is a concentrated meditation, focusing and concentrating on the breath. … Just do it a couple of times and see. I do this with people and they experience a difference.”
If you want something more ‘active,’ Dr. Gordon has a more involved technique, something he calls “expressive meditation”: “If you shake your body for five minutes, you start breaking up the second pattern that comes with trauma which is the freeze response.” He says exercise of any form can help combat the effects of trauma.
For more advice on breathing techniques, ways you can feel better right now, and the state of men’s mental health, check out the full interview with Dr. Gordon below:
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