If you’re feeling a little stressed lately, you’re not alone. The coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak has changed the way we live our lives and will likely continue to do so for a while yet.
Considering it’s a worldwide pandemic at this stage, you’re forgiven for feeling anxious, stressed, frustrated, or worried! As you can probably guess, though, if you’re feeling stressed lately, your dog is probably feeling a little stressed too.
I’ve definitely been feeling the effects of what’s been going on in the world. An accumulation of events led to me experiencing what some of you might refer to as a meltdown.
I felt very overwhelmed and my stress buckets were overflowing. But, through intentional breathing, I was able to calm down and because I was finally calm again, my dogs felt calmer too.
I’m going to share my story with you in hopes that it’ll help you during times when you’re feeling stressed or overwhelmed. I’m also teaching you how you can use intentional breathing to calm both you and your dog, so buckle in!
What caused my meltdown?
When I say meltdown, most of you are probably picturing crazy Kathy with her arms swinging about in a fit of rage. But that’s not exactly accurate. It was more of an interior meltdown than a physical one. It was an emotional breakdown.
It was caused by an accumulation of things. COVID-19 has me in a constant state of panic and distress, like I’m sure many of you are experiencing as a result of the pandemic. On top of that, my husband got laid off, which means our health insurance just went out the window at what could be the worst possible time for it to happen.
I’ve also got some health concerns with a few of my dogs, which has me constantly worried about them. Finally, I recently opened the doors to my Brilliant Partnership Academy with a five-day challenge to help support dog moms who are having trouble with their dogs and their behavior.
All of these things played a part in what was to come. So, I was out on my morning walk with my dogs. If you know me, you’ll know that I love being out in nature. I love feeling the sunshine on my skin, the different scents in the air, and the cooling breeze in my hair.
However, this particular morning’s walk didn’t quite go as planned. I stopped under a tree and everything hit me at once. I sobbed… a lot. With each tear that fell, it was like a piece of stress was being released from my body.
My dogs wanted to know what was going on with me. I couldn’t help it though. I had been holding it all in for so long that crying it out felt like such a relief.
Finding my balance
Amidst all of the sobbing and overwhelm, I knew that I had to find my balance again. So, I started breathing. I inhaled for five seconds and exhaled for eight seconds. In a way, it was like I was letting go of all the things that was stressing me out with each breath I took.
I re-directed my thoughts to something else, something that I loved. My dogs. I reminded myself how blessed I am to be able to do what I do. I focused on my intentional deep breathing and let it stimulate my vagus nerve, which reaches almost all areas of the body including the heart, lungs, chest, and abdomen. It’s resembles the roots of a tree and weaves around your body, connecting everything.
“Your body senses your breathing and adapts its heart rate in response to that.”
Within a few minutes of doing this, I felt renewed, refreshed, and ready to take on the day. I managed to find my balance again and enjoy the rest of the walk with my beloved dogs.
Why intentional breathing is so important
Deep and intentional breathing defuses stress and helps to train your brain and body to relax. Controlling your breathing and taking the time to do it slowly and deeply calms your mind and regulates your blood pressure.
When things aren’t going your way and you feel stressed and anxious, remember to try this breathing exercise. The positive effects of intentional breathing are based on science and human biology. It activates your parasympathetic nervous system, which then triggers the relaxation response. It helps you to feel a sense of calm. Maybe not right away, but after a few minutes of intentional breathing, you’ll start to feel a reduction in the feeling of stress you had before you started.
It’s also important to do this exercise to help calm your dog. Our dogs mirror us, and we have the ability to influence our dogs to be happy, calm, and relaxed. Intentional breathing is just one of the ways we can do that so that we can continue to be a brilliant partner for and with our dogs.
Intentional breathing affects not only us, but our dogs too. This is one of the reasons why we can live a partnership lifestyle with our dogs. Our ability to be mindful and intentional is what helps us to bond with our dogs in a way that no form of traditional training can replicate.
“Our ability to be mindful and intentional is what our partnership lifestyle is based on.”
How to breathe intentionally
Start by breathing in slowly through your nose. Concentrate on filling up your lungs with oxygen. Try not to raise your shoulders in the process. Your stomach may expand out, which is exactly what you want. Place your hand on your stomach and feel your hand raise and lower with each breath you take.
Inhale for five seconds. Count them if you have to and then exhale for eight seconds. This slow and deep breathing should help you to feel more relaxed and calmer and as a result, your dog will begin to mirror your calmness too. I mean, they probably won’t take deep breaths with you, but you never know!
Redirect your thoughts to thoughts of positivity and gratitude. Remember the things in your life that you’re truly grateful for. For me, that’s my dogs, my family, and my work. For you, it might be the same or something different. Whatever it is, concentrate your thoughts on those things while you’re breathing intentionally to help calm your entire body and mind.
Whenever your dog is feeling excited, sensitive, fearful, or stressed, remember this breathing method. It’ll help you to find your balance so that your dog will role model your behavior and emotions and calm down in times of stress and overwhelm.
If you’d like to work with me and learn how to create a partnership lifestyle for you and your dog, you can request an invitation to join us in the Brilliant Partners Academy when the doors open for the next enrolment!
You can listen to everything I talked about in this blog post over on my podcast – Enlightened By Dogs. It’s episode 99, which you can listen to here.
Watch a short video trailer of the episode below: