How do we cope with terrorism?

I have decided to write an extra newsletter this month in response to the horrendous tragedies that have befallen in the UK over the past months. Many of us are feeling frightened and emotions are contagious. Terrorism tires to put fear into all of us and it is an insidious strategy indeed for when we are in a place of fear we are easily manipulated.

But how do we stay calm in the face of atrocity and not let them succeed?

Conscious breathing is the easiest way to do this, easiest because we all have to breathe all of the time and by learning to control our breathing, we can change the focus of what we feel and thereby learn to control our emotions.

The first step is to become aware of the breath. If it is short and shallow, then we have gone into in flight/flight, which mean that, on either a conscious or unconscious level we are trying to escape. Notice as soon as you can when you are feeling the fear response.

Now check that that you are breathing correctly. Put your hands on your belly and breathe deeply into them. Make sure that your belly is expanding when you breathe in and contracting when you breathe out. Reverse breathing: i.e. belly coming in when you breathe in and going out when you breathe out; is guaranteed to put you and keep you in stress.

Next, then try this exercise. Again with your hands on your belly, breathe deeply into them for four counts (or fewer if that is more comfortable), hold your breath briefly and then slowly exhale for a similar count, holding briefly before you repeat for as long as you need to calm down.

After that, you can become creative with breathing. For example, use a word or phrase and split it into two parts. E.g. re-lax, peace-ful, for-give, all is-well. Use the first half for the in breath and the second for the outbreath.

Visualisation is also extremely effective. Try breathing in from above the crown of your head down into your heart centre, then exhale downwards to below your feet. Once you have established this and feel comfortable with it, reverse the process by breathing in from below your feet, up to your heart centre, and exhaling out through the top of your head. Finally, bring both directions together by visualising breathing in from above the crown and, at the same time, below your feet, into your heart centre. Then breathe out into the world, perhaps infusing the out breath with intentions such as peace, love or compassion.

Conscious breathing exercises like these can be done anywhere and at any time and, with practice, retrain the mind and body to withstand stressful events, even while watching the news or listening to a bulletin.

Using conscious breathing to reset your mind and the responses of your body, teaches us to halt the fear response and turn it into something useful so that we can stay in control even when life around us seems to be falling apart. It also enables each of us to make our little bit of difference. If enough of us stay calm and breathe out peace, compassion and forgiveness, even the terrorists will gradually learn that fear is not the way.

Wishing us all happy and powerful breathing and a more peaceful, loving world.

Love Laurelle