Episode 45: A Hand to Calm Me
Description: This week, Dr. Boogren introduces another breathing technique to help bring calm. This trick is so simple, it could be used in any classroom!
1. Check out Dr. Chatterjee's work here:
Transcription: Hi, and welcome to episode 45 of Self-Care for Educators. I am your host, Tina Boogren, and this week's invitation comes from Dr. Chatterjee, C-H-A-T-T-E-R-J-E-E. I believe I've talked about him before. He has a couple of really great books. The one that I go to all the time is Feel Better in Five.
And, I'm also on his email list. And, I love his emails, because they have these little tidbits of information. And, the most recent that I just read from him was this super, super simple technique called the five finger breathing technique. If you've been in a workshop with me, you know, I talk about breathing a lot. Many of you have taken some deep breaths with me. In fact, we've talked about tactical breathing or box breathing, belly breathing ... This is along those same lines, but I love this because the idea of how to do this, the kind of the, how of this breath is new to me. So, it's kind of fun. So, the thinking here ... Let me just kind of reground us in why breathing is so important.
What breathing does is it really, it puts us back in our body. It's a strategy that I recommend to combat anxiety and worry in particular. It's so great for students. And, it's really, really great for us. What tends to happen is that when we're feeling anxious, it's because we're either thinking about the past or the future, neither of which we have control over. And so, when we're able to find our breath, what we're doing is we're calming our entire nervous system down. We're getting ourselves back into this present moment. And, that's just sending a signal to our bodies and our brains. That right now, in this exact moment, we are safe, which is huge. We know that in order to feel safe, we need three things really. We need order. We need predictability, and we need fairness. And, we've talked about this before. That's a lot of what, we've, what we've lost this year. Those are hard things. And so, stated differently when we lose that sense of order, predictability, and fairness, we don't feel safe. And, the emotion that's tied to that when we don't feel safe is anxious and worry. So, one of my favorite strategies to combat that is stopping and just catching my breath. What I do for myself oftentimes is I just give myself a signal. I put my hand on my belly, which is just my concrete, physical reminder to pause and take a really deep breath where I get that breath all the way down into my belly.
And, what I mean by that is that on the inhale on my inhale, I actually want my stomach to physically expand. In fact, I want you to try that right now. Let's just do this together. I want you to pause for a second, wherever you are. Just put your hand on your belly and I want you to inhale through your nose and feel your stomach expand and that feels good every time I do that. I'm like, why don't I breathe like that? Every single breath that I take during the day, right? Usually when we breathe, our breath is pretty shallow, right? It's up in our chest. And in fact, the more anxious or stressed we get, the more shallow our breath becomes.
This can actually lead to a panic attack. It's the worst. So being able to pause and catch our breath, Oh, it makes all the difference. In fact, what we're able to do when we pause and take that deep breath is it allows us to respond. To a situation rather than react. I'll say that again. Cause that's really important when we're able to pause and take that deep breath, it allows us to respond to a situation rather than react and just think of the difference right now in your mind between responding and reacting. When we react, there's a good chance that we might do or say something that we regret, right? Because, the reaction is just quick. We don't have time to think about it. Woof. Instead, if we can create a little bit of space between the event or the trigger or something that happens, we create that space through a breath, then we're able to respond thoughtfully and carefully respond.
And, that feels so much better and so much different. And, that we don't end up again saying, or doing something that we end up regretting. So, learning, right, to catch our breath to take a deep breath, to respond to a situation that causes us stress or anxiety, or gets our nervous system all jacked up to be able to take that deep breath. I think we need to practice so back to the very specific strategy that Dr. Chatterjee reminds us of. So this is called the five finger breathing technique. So, here's what he says. I'm going to read this to you, and then I'll put it in my own words as well. So what happens here? The ... One of the reasons this is so incredible is because it's uses three different senses,: our vision, our breath, and touch, our vision, our breath and touch, which is pretty cool.
So, this is a great thing to do with students, too. So, you'll find that your whole brain capacity is required to do this. What I'm going to ask you to do ... And so, that just by that, by getting our whole brain on this, we get to push out any of the negative thoughts. And again, what that's doing is putting us back into this present moment. So, here's how it works. Okay. You need both hands for this. So, number one, I want you to hold your left hand out in front of you. I want you to place your right index finger on the outside edge of your left thumb at its base. As you breathe in through your nose, I want you to trace your right index finger up the left side of your left thumb until you get to the tip. I'm going to say that again. Okay. As you breathe in through your nose, trace your, use your right index finger to trace the side of your left thumb until you get to the tip. Okay. Take your right index finger and just trace the outside of your left thumb. And, you're just going to inhale. And then, just pause at the top and then you breathe out ideally through your mouth, breathe out as you move that finger down the other side of your thumb.
So, just the other side. So, you got to the top pause, breathe out, drop your index finger down the other side of your thumb. And then, you're just going to keep doing this around all of your fingers. So, it's an inhale up the side of your index finger pause at the top. Exhale. As you go down the other side of your index finger again, up inhale, pause at the top, exhale down the side, inhale through your up your ring finger. Pause at the top, exhale down the side, and then your pinkie inhale, pause at the top down the side. It's that simple. But, it's that powerful. So again, what I love about this is here's what we're doing, where we are, we've got our vision, our breath, and our touch. So, you just ... Basically you're tracing your fingers up and down, inhale up one side, pause, exhale down the backside, inhale up one side, pause, exhale down the outside.
And, you're just tracing your finger while you do that again. That's just concentration. And, every every time you go up and down your fingers or your just your whole brain has to think about that. And, the advantage of that is you're pushing those negative thoughts out. Ah, and ideally, you're going to breathe in through your nose and exhale out your mouth. Think of that, that belly breath that you want to take too. So, on the inhale, you really want your stomach to expand. So well, let's just do it together. It's just going to kind of be silent for a second, but I want us to do this right now together. You might hear me breathing, because I'm going to breathe in through my nose and exhale through my mouth, but I'm actually going to do this. I know you can't see me, but I'm going to actually do this using my, both of my hands. I'm going to use my right hand to trace my left hand. I'm going to ask you to do the same. Let's just do it together right now. Ready? Go.
All right. That was about 30 seconds. Sorry. If it was really weird to hear me breathing in your ear. You get the idea. You can do this on your own. What Dr. Chatterjee recommends is to do this just as, for as long as you can. A couple of minutes is ideal, but even if you don't have a couple minutes just to pause like that for me, it's about 30 seconds of breathing to trace my hand. And, that feels pretty good. Good. So, I want you to just play with that this week. Start incorporating that in your day. See if you can make a habit out of that. It's a great thing to do with students. Just a different technique of a way to really calm our nervous system down and catch our breath and have a tool and a strategy in our back pocket when we're feeling pretty anxious in particular. Good.
As always a huge thank you to Brooke for making this happen. Thank you, to Marzano Resources and Solution Tree for this job I get to do, and you. You, my bad-ass Self-Care Squad. You, my baddest self-care listener. Thank you for being on this journey with me. And, I wish you an amazing week ahead. Don't forget to breathe.