The Best “In-the-Moment” Coping Strategies

How can we cope with feelings of anxiety during this unprecedented time? The answer is usually self-care and connection. Self-care means doing things for yourself that are healthy and feel good.

These can include regular daily exercise, a regular relaxation practice, cooking your favorite healthy foods, etc. Connection involves connecting with yourself ad connecting with others. Connection with oneself means that we acknowledge what we are feeling without covering it up with sleep, alcohol, drugs, food, etc.

The next step is to try to give oneself empathy for difficult feelings and situations. Connection with self is often best followed by connection with others (connecting with people who you care about and who care about you).

Coping Strategy: 3-3-6 Breathing Exercise

Specific breathing exercises can help reduce heightened emotions in-the-moment. 3-3-6 breathing is a type of diaphragmatic breath training that can help reinforce a regular relaxation practice and used in moments of acute distress. The procedure is pretty simple and requires just a little practice before becoming part of your procedural memory, aka, second nature.

Breathe in for three counts, hold for three counts, and exhale for six counts, repeat 10 times.

3-3-6 Breathing Exercise

Repetitive 3-3-6 breathing encourages the body to use a diaphragmatic breath, which is incompatible with the fight-or-flight-or-freeze sympathetic nervous system response threat.

This breathing pattern will help engage your parasympathetic nervous system, thereby produce a lower heart rate and help to lower your blood pressure. When the brain notices a diaphragmatic breath, it is less likely to release the cascade of neurotransmitters and hormones that produce the fight-or-flight-or freeze response in the human body.

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I suggest doing 10 repetitions of 3-3-6 breathing at a time and then doing these repetitions at least 3 times per day. It takes about two minutes to do 10 repetitions of 3-3-6 breathing and once you start to get the hang of it, you can use this in stressful situations to help keep your parasympathetic nervous system engaged and help you have a more relaxed body and mind.

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Dr. Kaia Calbeck

Dr. Kaia Calbeck underwent her doctoral training at the University of Miami’s Counseling Psychology Doctoral Program, which is accredited by the American Psychological Association. Her dissertation received a prestigious Award of Academic Merit. She began her graduate studies at the University of Kentucky, where she earned a Master’s Degree in Counseling Psychology.

Dr. Calbeck started her academic career at the University of Florida, where she graduated Cum Laude and Phi Beta Kappa. She majored in Psychology, with a minor in Anthropology, and an outside concentration in Dance Performance.

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