When I look out my window and see poor air quality, the smoky haze is made more disheartening by bits of gray ash floating in the air before coming to rest on the ground. The oppressive heat adds insult to already injured lungs and makes moving through my day challenging.
The stress of fire, drought and ashy-air is showing in everyone’s demeanor. Brows are furrowed, shoulders are tensed and conversations are clipped with the burden of finding ‘safe’ air to breath. In addition to all the recommendations from doctors and health experts about staying indoors and limiting exertion — especially if you have compromised lungs — it is vital to actively manage your mental and emotional stress when the body is under assault.
These dog days of summer are crying out for a storm to refresh the air and soak the earth with sweet rain. Until that happens, the smoke and heat are physical stresses on the body. There are countless posts on social media and in the news about the dangers of inhaling this noxious stuff, but harder to find are stories about the effects of these conditions on the mood and mind. More importantly, what is the antidote?
Try this: find a place where the air is clean, such as a well air-conditioned home or businesses for example, and take some deep breaths.
Breathe the air into the bottom of your lungs, hold it for a moment and then release it. Move your arms up and down with your breath and roll your shoulders to relieve the tension you may be holding. Our tendency is to hold our breath or to breath shallowly when stressed, actions which only confirm the body’s suspicions that something is wrong!
Do this conscious deep breathing and shoulder rolling several times a day; set a timer if you need a reminder. If you have never attended a yoga class, this might be an excellent time to try out guided movement with breathing reminders. If you exercise regularly — good for you — don’t stop, just move it indoors until Mother Nature blows the air clean.
Meanwhile, focus on stretching, foam rolling and mindful breathing to let your body know that it does not need to hold on to that tension.
If you can get a break from the smoke and heat, take it! If you can’t, create a moment or two in your day to calm your body and your mind will follow.