How many times have we used this strategy to calm ourselves in the midst of panic? It's almost reflexive -- we repeat in our minds, JUST BREATHE. Or -- if we aren't able to calm ourselves, someone in our support system quietly but firmly speaks the word to us -- B.R.E.A.T.H.E.. Deep breathing increases our oxygen levels, decreases our carbon dioxide levels, slows our heart rate, reduces our blood pressure and counteracts the fight or flight response that explodes in the face of an acute threat to danger -- whether physical or emotional.
But have you noticed that as we move through our everyday lives, encumbered and weighed-down by cumulative stressors -- none that necessarily represents an acute threat of danger, but many of which represent the chronic threat of exhaustion, hopelessness, worry and instability -- that we forget to JUST B.R.E.A.T.H.E.? Somehow the insidious nature of financial stress, work stress, relationship stress, and every other stress removes our instinct to calm ourselves. Instead, we move through our lives holding our breath, waiting for the other shoe to drop and slowly suffocating.
Men can be especially vulnerable to, shall we call it, not breathing. Because of the cultural environment in which we are raised, as a man, you are often not allowed the pause to take stock of what you think or how you feel. Rather, traditional gender roles dictate that you are the protector, not the one in need of protection. In addition to gender cues, the experience of Black men in America is often wrought with racism, discrimination and mistreatment. As a result, you move through life in a perpetual state of flight or fight -- anticipating and responding to constant threats of danger, both emotional and physical. Because the threats are chronic and insidious, you may not even realize that you are moving through life without breathing. And so, you may have guessed what my next sentence would be: B.R.E.A.T.H.E.
Did you notice that each time you've read the word B.R.E.A.T.H.E. in this post, it is not only written like an acronym, but also is a hyperlink? B.R.E.A.T.H.E. is a movement started by Trina Morris, a yoga-wellness expert and stands for Brothers Re-Establishing Actions To be Human and Empowered. The movement is a wellness campaign that seeks to strengthen the tenacious ways that Black men survive and thrive amidst their challenging realities by inviting Black men to celebrate, support and engage in activism beyond anger in efforts to genuinely heal.
I will leave you with the tagline for the campaign -- I absolutely love the power in it. I encourage you to check out the website -- if for no other reason that it may give you a moment to pause and just B.R.E.A.T.H.E.
Consider it more than just an involuntary action. There is profound energy riding on each human inhalation and exhalation. Breathing can be completely transformative. When we consciously breathe, our spirit self declares one (or more) of the following...
- A chance to save/preserve life from death, misfortune or rage
- A pause… to calm, process or wait for clarity
- A turning point or wake-up call to make a different choice
- An opportunity to relax and/or experience joy, fun, etc.
- A moment to release/let go/move on (from something or someone)