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Episode 11: Beautiful Belly Breath

Updated: Nov 13, 2022

Description: It's no surprise that many of us are feeling more anxious than ever. This week, Dr. Boogren takes us back to the low levels of Maslow's hierarchy and provides a simple technique to recenter and recharge.


1. To explore more research and techniques for the box breath, see

2. Consider printing out this visual as a friendly reminder for your work (or home) space.

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The Self-Care for Educators team cares about the content-accessibility for all educators. If you have trouble accessing the audio for the podcast, the transcription has been provided below.

Transcription: Hi, and welcome to episode 11 of Self-Care for Educators. I am your host, Tina Boogren, and in this episode, we're going to talk about breathing. Specifically, we're going to talk about how we can use our breath ... to combat our anxiety. So here's what I know ... so many of us are dealing with anxiety right now. Super common. In fact, you know, a lot of us, myself included deal with anxiety all the time. And then, when you throw a pandemic and everything else that's going on in the world on top of it ... things really start to escalate. ...

Here's what we know. When we think about safety, which is the second rung of the ladder or the second level of Maslow's hierarchy, the three traits that we need in order to feel safe are order, predictability, and fairness. And if you take each of those. ... Think about ... we've kind of lost those ... Our sense of order is very out of control. This is not how the school year is supposed to start. Right? This is not the order of how things are supposed to go. Stability has flown out the window. We don't know what next week it's going to look like, let alone next month. Oh my goodness. Right?

In fairness ... we could all list the reasons that just things aren't fair right now. Everything from missed weddings to all the school things to ceremonies ... vacations on and on and on. So really you could say that all of us, our safety has been seriously rocked these days. And, the direct result of not feeling safe is a sense of anxiety right? And ... we are feeling anxious our not our best selves—and that's certainly not who we want to present to our students, to our families, to our friends, to ourselves, really. So, we need so desperately to learn new tools and strategies to help us really get that anxiety or worry under control. Because, there's a lot of things that are out of our ... actual sphere of influence, right? We we can't change the predictability. We can't change the order of things or the fairness, but there are some things that we can do to help combat this. I don't think we have to just throw up our hands and say, there's nothing we can do.

Actually, I think it feels really empowering to have some strategies on hand that we can utilize. Way back in week one, I talked about music, and music is a strategy that I always recommend to combat anxiety or worry. You know, I've mentioned time and time again, that I love to take AAWs—Attitude Adjustment Walks, and what I do on those walks is: I pop my headphones in, and I listen ... to music particularly our Educator 911 playlist and instantly ... I feel better. It's just crazy to me how quickly that works. So that's one strategy.

The strategy I want to talk about today is using our breath to help us get out of that anxious state and back in the present moment. That's our goal. Because, if you think about it, when we're feeling anxious what is happening, typically our brain, we're thinking about the future. In reality, we're actually thinking about the future that we have no control over, and we start to go down this path often times of, well, what if this happens? Well, then that's going to happen. And, that's going to lead to that. And, we get on this future tripping cycle, and all that's doing is increasing our anxiety, which is impacting our nervous system. We can feel it in our body. We have these racing thoughts and we're not, yes. I said, we're not typically our best selves when we're like that.

So when we feel ourselves in that future tripping space or where we're feeling really anxious or where we feel ... our stomach is tight ... where we feel like we can't catch our breath ... what I want us to do is concentrate on putting ourselves back in the present moment, by taking a big, huge belly breath. I refer to this as a box breath, or maybe you've heard of tactical breathing. It's all the same idea here. The notion is that what we're trying to do is calm our nervous system down and get our brains and our bodies back in sync to recognize the fact that in this moment, in this exact moment we are safe. That's the goal.

So here's how you do it. In fact, I'm going to invite you to do this with me right now. Hopefully you're sitting down somewhere or you can just kind of pause where you are. Please don't do this driving. Hold onto this, and do this later if you need to. But what I want you to do is just put both feet firmly on the ground, and then I invite you to ... sit up straight. I always say, picture a balloon attached to the tag of your shirt, just helping you kind of sit up straight. And right now, before you do anything else, I just want you to put your hand on your belly, and I want you to feel what it feels like to inhale and have your stomach actually physically expand. I'm going to pause so you can do that.

Oh man, doesn't that feel good? That's a belly breath. That's the breath that's going to calm our nervous system down. That's the goal. And so, when you think about this tactical breathing or box breathing, what I want you to picture, and I'll actually put an image of this in the Show Notes, but you're just picturing a box, a square, and you're just breathing. One breath is breathing around all four sides of that, and ideally you want it to be an even count of four on all four sides. So, you start with a big, long inhale for a count of four, you hold that inhale at the top of the box for a count of four, you exhale for a count of four, and then hold that exhale at the bottom. That's one cycle, one deep breath. And what I always say when you're just getting started with this is: I know this feels goofy, but this will help you build muscle memory around this, so you'll remember it to come back to it later.

So have one hand on your belly and with the other hand actually draw the box. As you're breathing, either in the air, you can just look down, draw it on your legs ... Something that's just going to help you make this connection. And it feels really grounding to do that. And, if you think about it again, you're using that breath to calm your nervous system down. Okay? And, you're getting your brain to stop having those ruminating thoughts, getting stuck in that future tripping place. And, it just calms us back down, puts us back in this present moment that reminds ourselves that right now, we are safe. And, that's what we need to do to counteract that anxiety. So while I've got you here on this podcast, I want you to take a deep breath. I'm going to do this with you. And it's going to feel a little bit weird, because it's going to be quiet, but I'm going to pause and I'm going to invite you to take at least two deep breaths. So, two times around that box, and what I want you to do again, is make that connection by putting your hand on your belly and with your other hand, literally drawing the box. So, I'm going to do this with you, so I'm just going to pause. There's going to be some radio silence for a minute, just stick with it, and after I do my two breaths, then I'm going to bring us back together. So, just go ahead and settle in, and whenever you are ready, go ahead and take at least two deep breaths. Ready? Go.

All right, I'm going to start to pull you back together, and right now I just want you to check in with yourself and see how you feel. Man, doesn't it feel amazing when I can catch myself in those anxious moments and remind myself to take that breath? It's so tremendously helpful to me. It is just my number one tool for in the moment. It's available to me anytime. Whenever I feel myself getting in that anxious state or feeling really worried or any strong emotion actually ... if I can just pause and take that deep breath. Gosh, it's just so helpful. So, I invite you to play around with that this week. You know, when you feel yourself in the moment feeling that that anxious, stressed place, remind yourself to breathe there.

Maybe you set an alarm to practice this. Maybe you draw a picture of a box on a sticky-note and put it on your computer to just remind yourself that that's ... kind of your go-to thing. I just want you to kind of play around with it ... with breathing this week, and see if you can use it. Make it part of your tools added to your tool belt to help yourself feel better. Good? Okay.

Oh, I can't wait to hear how it goes as always. Thank you so much to Brooke for making this happen. Thank you to Marzano Resources and Solution Tree for allowing me to do this amazing job. And finally, oh my gosh, a huge shout out to you—my Self-Care Squad. You are so bad-ass. I am so proud to be a member of this squad. Have an amazing week!

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