A Plain Vanilla Application of Tactical Breathing to Increase Resilience

I use tactical breathing regularly. In this post I will describe a recent experience in which the breathing tool really helped. Reading this detailed account of how to use it while being challenged from several directions may help you apply it when you need to.

People tend to think that anyone teaching resilience should be super-resilient. Actually I, like many other psychologists, was drawn to my favorite topic as a form of self-help. I come from a long line of tense and anxious people.  It is far from easy for me to deal with situations that are difficult and threatening. Medical settings are particularly troubling for me.

I have a problem with my spine that leads to chronic pain, sometimes very severe pain. Recently my doctor recommended that I have steroid injections in my spine. You can well imagine that the procedure is not comfortable.

The Spinal Pain Clinic emphasized the importance of being there on time. When I got within a block of the clinic, construction work blocked my access. I then turned to circumvent the barrier, and the next street also was shut off for construction.  I suppose that’s to be expected at a hospital that is doing very well.

I did a few inhalations to the count of 4 with exhalations to the count of 7. However, it was hard because I had to concentrate on how to get there. Still, I had allowed extra time, so I was able to find a way through several more obstacles to arrive on time. The delays had rattled me a little, but the partial use of breath control helped reduce my tension.

After filling out the required paperwork (which I hate), I settled down in the waiting room. I was able to quietly do my breathing procedure, but was quickly called into a room where I was asked a lot of questions, and where, once again, my brain was taken up with composing answers, leaving little opportunity to regulate my breathing.

Soon I was taken to what looked like an operating room, told to take down my pants and get in an uncomfortable position that was necessary to get the needles in the right places. At that point I was able to do tactical breathing with little distraction. The injection caused fairly intense pain for a short while, but that was not hard for me. I’m used to it.

Soon they helped me into a wheel chair and took me to a room where they monitored my heart rate and blood pressure. I assumed that the stress of this new and somewhat threatening situation would elevate my blood pressure.

It dawned on me that this was a good opportunity to practice lowering my blood pressure by using my preferred breathing technique. I couldn’t see the monitor but was pretty sure my starting pressure was elevated.

Eventually a nurse came by and decided it was time to release me. I asked her what the blood pressure reading was at that point.  She answered, “It’s 117/72, but it was high at first. That’s a very good blood pressure”.  I told her that it was typical of my home readings and she replied, “It’s a good blood pressure anywhere”.

There is nothing spectacular about how I handled this. You can do the same thing. Circumstances weren’t ideal, but I used breath control whenever I could fit it in, and the results were very good. You can do it too.


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