Just Be Still

Learning How to Unwind

Guy Hamilton and grandmotherWhen we were young, my brother and I spent much of our summers at my grandma and grandpa’s farm in Boswell, Indiana. Running around with our cousins in the country and being doted on by grandparents was typically much more appealing than being cooped up in the suburbs and getting assigned the perfunctory summer chores from our mom.

Every night, our cousins would eventually go home and leave my brother and me to play, roughhouse or bicker like only two young brothers can. But as soon as our Grandpa would come in from the field, if we were causing too much of a ruckus, we would hear grandma’s loving yet firm directive, “boys, it’s time to be still.”

After being up before sunrise, working all day and sometimes not returning until after dark, our grandfather preferred some peace and quiet to two young boys running and jumping all over their small country farmhouse. It’s a feeling we can all relate to.

Just like my grandfather coming in from the field, coming home from the hospital or clinic after a long day, "being still" is something I’m sure we all look forward to. But it’s easier said than done to suddenly put the brakes on the day. It was hard for my brother and me to immediately stop our activities and today I still find it difficult at the end of the day to quiet the din of schedules, patients, and life that continues on in my head.

Luckily, I was introduced to a technique in medical school to calm myself that I still use to this day. It’s called 4-7-8 breathing. The technique can be used any time of the day, helps reduce stress and can help calm the unceasing activity going on in our brain.

To perform 4-7-8 breathing you take a breath in for 4 counts, you hold the breath for 7 counts, and then with the tip of your tongue pushed to the top of your mouth you exhale for 8 counts creating a “whooshing” sound. This cycle is repeated 4 times.

Practicing 4-7-8 breathing has helped me decrease stress throughout the day, relax before bed and fall asleep faster. I encourage you to try it at least once a day. If you’re like me, it will help you to “be still” in those times when you are stressed, anxious, or just need to unwind.

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