Are there any quick mindfulness and self-care breathing exercises for healthcare professionals?

Nicole Steward, MSW, RYT

May 5, 2020



Are there any quick mindfulness and self-care breathing exercises for healthcare professionals?



As humans, we tend to ruminate on the past, or project into the future. Being in the present is very difficult for us. A reptile or a mammal has to be in the present to survive; they have to be constantly assessing the threat. For humans, we no longer have to do that and do not have to be in the present moment. We can ruminate on the past, project into the future, and still survive. Mindfulness is the practice of being fully present at the moment; noticing your thoughts and letting them go without any judgment. Mindfulness is a practice that is similar to meditation. This is very important in the healthcare professions as patients come to us in distress or with a problem. They come to us seeking help or healing.

Moving the body and breath at the same time helps ground our brainstem (e.g., primitive brain), and allows us to pull into our cortex (e.g., thinking brain). This stimulates our body into a rhythm that allows us to calm down and to be in the present moment. I have a few breathing exercises here which you can use on your own, as self-care. Please share these with those that you serve and work with.

Mindful Movement

Take 5 Breaths. This breathing exercise is very simple. Take your hand, with your other index finger start tracing at the base of the thumb. Inhale up the thumb and exhale down. Inhale up the index finger and exhale down. Inhale up the middle finger and exhale down. Inhale up the ring finger and exhale down. Then inhale up the pinky finger and exhale down. You can put your hand on your chest, lap, or in your pocket, and just feel your fingers.

Elevator Breath. Inhale, bringing your shoulders all the way up to your ears, and on the exhale let it drop. 

Lion's Breath. This is a fun breathing exercise that everyone enjoys because you might look silly. With both feet flat on the floor and hands on top of the thighs. We are going to take a nice deep inhale through the nose, and on the exhale, we are going to stick our tongue out as far as we can and roar like a lion. Sticking the tongue out of the mouth allows the jaw to relax just a little bit.

Birthday cake breath. Imagine your birthday cake, try to picture what kind of cake it is (i.e., vanilla, chocolate, etc.). Then take a nice deep inhale and on the exhale blow out the candles nice and slow. 

This Ask the Expert is an excerpt from the webinar, Stress, Trauma, and Mindfulness: Self-Care for Healthcare Professionals.

nicole steward

Nicole Steward, MSW, RYT

Nicole Steward is a social worker and registered yoga teacher (RYT) with a focus on community engagement, public education, foster youth advocacy, and trauma-informed yoga.  With more than a decade of social work practice in non-profits and K-12 education, Nicole has noticed the need for radical self-care to discharge toxic stress we absorb through our work. This awareness drives her to study trauma as well as the ways yoga and mindfulness affect our brains and bodies, keeping us engaged and renewed. Nicole teaches yoga, mindfulness, and offers self-care workshops and retreats. Nicole believes self-care is a way of being we must adopt if we are to sustain ourselves as service providers, educators  and  human beings.

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