Updated: May 1, 2021
Mental health is a huge problem in the world right now. Not only do we have our customary baseline population rate of 20-25% mental health disorders, but the pandemic has heightened that already high baseline. All forms of anxiety among college students have risen dramatically, and in the U.S. the rate of depression has more than tripled among university students. I see these effects in my classes weekly. Due to a dramatically reduced face-to-face social life, less hugging and touching of family and friends, less time outdoors, and a highly restricted and repetitive daily routine, young people are suffering the effects of these deprivations.
I believe it’s crucial in modern times for people of all ages to learn to self-care, to treat themselves to relaxation breaks and practice stress management methods. There will never be enough mental health professionals available for prolonged individual psychological counselling and treatment, plus the cost is prohibitive. So, as I view it, the dissemination of stress reduction techniques that we can practice alone or with support groups is key. We each need to develop a self-care practice to offset the ever-increasing psychological onrush of personal, societal, and world problems. We each need to be helped to learn how to take care of ourselves: mind, body, heart, and spirit. This might entail more widespread practice of meditation, massage, mind training, positive affirmations, relaxation practice, recreational sports, laughter yoga groups, reading words of wisdom, support groups, whatever it takes to help us handle LIFE with its increasingly complex, demanding, and ongoing challenges.
So, as I view it, the dissemination of stress reduction techniques that can be practiced alone or with support groups is key. We each need to develop a self-care practice to offset the ever-increasing psychological load of personal, societal, and world problems.
We each need to be helped to learn how to take care of ourselves: mind, body, heart, and spirit. This might entail the more widespread practice of meditation, massage, cognitive training, affirmations, recreational sports, laughter groups, reading words of wisdom, whatever it takes to help us handle LIFE.
My personal favourite method of self-care is simple breath awareness (in addition to other pranayama methods). Just to pause and remember at any given moment, “I am breathing, right here, right now. Oxygen is coming into my body through my nostrils. I can feel it flowing, it feels good coming in. And I can feel my body exhaling carbon dioxide, air leaving my nostrils at exactly this moment. Here I am now, feeling this, and I am feeling good. For three or four or five breaths in and out, here I am, right now, doing nothing else, simply experiencing my body breathing.”
Breath awareness is an ancient practice dating back at least 5,000 years, and has clearly stood the test of time. It has also passed the tests of modern laboratory science, and its many benefits for mind, body, and emotions have been well-demonstrated. Simply focusing on our natural breathing, and savouring it, can awaken us, restore us, heal us in so many ways that matter.
In the Upanishads, Indra utters these words: “The breath of life is the consciousness of life, and the consciousness of life is the breath of life.” How easily we forget, and how easily we can again remember: the reminder is right beneath our nose, here, now.