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Breathe and Believe

Breathe and Believe

Coping Skill #1

The last 24 hours reminded me of this day, many Octobers ago and the last time I completed a century (105 miles) bike ride through Death Valley, CA as a fundraiser for JDRF (Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation).  Death Valley, Nevada, if you aren’t familiar is simultaneously brutally barren and beautiful.  On this day, 102.5 miles into my 105 miles, I wasn’t having the beauty…we were battling heavy winds and air temperatures that topped out at 105 degrees.  I’m in the white helmet trying to ride the center line, as I had this perception that it was “cooler” in the middle of the road…that seems so silly now…if you’re thinking delirous, you’d be right.  At any rate, the ride is filled with rolling hills, a 4-mile long steep climb, winds, dust and when you find yourself out there alone, an eerie silence.  The last 10 or so miles always felt like a bit of a gift, a comparatively flat road UNTIL about mile 102.5, exactly where I am.  It’s right about where someone thought it would be funny to put in a very steep 1’ish mile climb up to a stop sign at an intersection.  It’s a BEAST, at least it felt like one on that day.  There were many choice words freely flowing from my lips, for sure swearing it would be the last time (and it was) that I would ride a bike through Death Valley (in fact, I “traded” it with my dear friend, Jana, who designed the logo for Train-2-Gain after that ride).

The past 24 hours very much mirrored this day.  There were mountains to climb, strong winds of change, and eerie silences.  And today I made it to the top of that beasty hill…and, so did you.  I did it by deploying a coping technique I learned last year and have practiced ever since.  In “My Stroke of Insight”, brain scientist, Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor, documented the following…When we are triggered (we observe, hear, feel, smell, touch, taste, and/or sense) by something that reminds us of a memory (usually either postive or negative) our brain accelerator (sympathetic nervous system) is activated and we begin to experience the phyiscal manifestations – perhaps your breathing and/or heart rate increase, maybe you feel a sweat coming on, your brain could feel frozen.  Dr. Taylor found in her research that ALL of those physiological responses occur within a defined period of time.   Before I read what came next, I surmised that its length was easily over 10 minutes…***HANG ON TO YOUR CHAIRS!!!***  it’s only a mere 90 seconds.  Dr. Taylor further found that anything you experience beyond those 90 seconds, is your almighty brain attaching a story to it.

I was triggered (still am) many times a day so I created a little practice I wanted to share.  I call the concept “Breathing and Believing” and here’s how it works for me.  I wear a necklace which combines some things that Joe had given me.  It hangs just above my heart and has a defined center.  As soon as I notice the phyiscal manifestations of the trigger:  my heart racing, the pressure building in my chest and the onset of a foggy brain, I reach for my touchstone, the center of my necklace, and I begin grounding myself.   Then I repeat “Jen, you only have to breathe for 90 seconds…just 90 seconds…you can do this…ride this wave for 90 seconds and you’re going to be ok.”  The craziest thing happens, that little ditty shocks my brain out of creating its punishing story and allows me back into the moment.  By the time I realize this, the wave has passed, and I’m not “suffering the story.”  I can only hope that the next time your brain begins its acceleration this skill is equally helpful for you.

Thank you for your comments yesterday, and for sharing how you extended gratitude towards others.  For me, I did 2 things – I handed a delivery driver a can of bubble water and I turned around on my way out of the grocery story and yelled “Attention Shoppers – how about a BIG ROUND OF APPLAUSE for the employees working so we can buy groceries.”  They did, and I left with the biggest smile on my face.

Gratitude:  Today, I’m grateful for the 950 Bartolotta employees who began their days without jobs, my heart beats with and for you.  To my fellow shoppers who afforded me just a HUGE smile.  And to a beloved family member who soothed me with her calm voice, reminding me that we’re all going to be ok.

the nugget…I’ve expanded “commUNITY” to my Instagram account.  Today, desperately needing a laugh I challenged everyone to a #3squaredab and I began what will be random posts about food we’re making here focused on pantry staples and “protein (both animal and seafood) as condiment, not as the main dealio”.  You can find me there at jenniferbartolotta.

In loving kindness, and until tomorrow.

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3 Comments

  1. When I suffered from insomnia, I went to a doctor whose specialty was hypnosis. He taught me those breathing exercises, and THEY WORK. Yes – they DO help you relax. Thanks, Jennifer.

  2. Love this and you have helped me through so many “rides”.

  3. First, I love the photo of Death Valley here! I know that stretch of road well. This past October I road up that Beast of a hill for the 8th time. Funny how your mind can go back to Death Valley in a matter of seconds. I have used the biking analogy this week with my kids as we wrap our heads around our new reality. We can only take it one mile at a time. But before you know it, you’ve completed a freaking century ride! Thanks for your breathing practice for getting grounded, it’s a good one. And yippee on the round of applause for the grocery store people!! They are truly are heroes right now.


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