Robby B. Echavez, MAEd, RPm, RPsy, MAGC (cand.)

As much as breathing is associated with work when we say “labored breathing,” it is also associated with rest everytime we use the phrase “breathe easy.” As a respiratory condition, COVID-19 complicates many medical conditions via influenza-like symptoms like shortness of breath, pressure on the chest, difficulty breathing, fast breathing, ribs pulling in on each breath, and the weakness, fatigue, and malaise that results from these respiratory disturbances. It can be said that COVID-19 makes it difficult to breathe easy and worst, can make belabor breathing.

A prospective psychological treatment to COVID scare or Corona stress is the anathema of COVID itself– breathing easy. Breathing easy can sound easy but imagine how this suggestion would be frustrating to someone with a really bad cold, a wheezing cough, or an aching and exhausted body. No doubt you’ve tried at some point breathing through a terrible cold. Breathing wasn’t so easy then, was it?

To dismiss the anxiety and the breathlessness brought on by Corona stress as something that is all in the person’s head is like telling a person with an asthma attack to “Just breathe, goddamit!” Like a person who needs breath support through a ventilator, persons who feel immobilized and out of breath because of a COVID scare require clear, concrete steps to make the anathema, i.e., breathe easy, a relieving reality for them.

“Maybe he just needs to go back to work?” somebody surmised after hearing of a recovered COVID-19 case having to be brought back to hospital for lack of sleep. This brought me back to the central physical and psychological experience of COVID– labored breathing.

Its been told that as we mature, our breathing gradually departs from its natural, easy rhythm. People who come to therapy or those who report being stressed are often enrolled for some brief form of breath retraining. The program will have us contrast between how our breathing patterns have changed from disease, overwork, or lifestyle. Hundreds of breathing techniques have been devised in order to bring our attention back to just how much our breath has come to be too shallow, too rapid, and too pressured over time. They all go back to one principle– breathe easy. Breathe like a baby. Calm down.

And as we have demonstrated, this anathema, expectedly offered as a panacea, is often received half-heartedly before failing altogether and bringing the breathless individual back to his irregular and distressing breathing style. What are we missing?

J. Gonzales

Nothing, quite honestly. We’re all hitting the right notes. So what are we doing wrong then? What we’re not doing quite right is that in breath retraining and similar programs that rely on the logic of bringing breathing back, we often mimic the pressure that we seek to unlearn in the first place. That is, we fall into the trap of pressuring ourselves to bring breathing back! In the fervor of being healed as quickly as possible, we pounce on breath training with high expectations, pushing ourselves to get the techniques, movements, and timings right. And when we dont– and usually we don’t not because it’s impossible to achieve but because it is a naturally gradual process, we often spiral back down to frustration which makes it easier for us to leave the program, rehabilitation, or therapy branding it as a failure. We terminate and look for another intervention not knowing that we will always be setting ourselves for failure unless we accept that the only way to bring breathing back is to follow the first principle of breathing easy.

When we fail, breathe easy.
When things are not going our way, breathe easy.
When we are not getting there, breathe easy.
When we lose our way, breathe easy.
When we can’t get it right, breathe easy.
When something so simple is so difficult to do, breathe easy.
When you’re all but ready to quite, breathe easy.

Breathe Easy

It will often take more than a day, a week, or months to bring breathing back to the way it was. We’ve been messing it up for quite some time, you see! We’ve screwing up our own breathing for years or decades now that to expect it to revert to its original baby-bottom state is like expecting a wrecked and junked car to be back to its pristine show-room look overnight. It just doesn’t work that way. If we took the time to get to this unfortunate state of our breathing becoming inconsistent and difficult, it will take the same amount of time, if not more, to bring breathing back.

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