What research reveals about sighing and how you can harness your breath to feel good anytime

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Photo: Justin Paget/Getty Images

If you breathed a sigh of relief when you saw the Associated Press call the presidential race for Joe Biden on November 7, 2020, you weren’t alone. Sighs of relief were heard around the world. The New York Times reported that “Biden Victory Brings Sighs of Relief Overseas,” while The Guardian published an op-ed entitled “Catastrophe has been averted. Let us all breathe a big, long sigh of relief.”

So, what exactly is a sigh of relief?

Augmented breaths, or sighs, are a neurobiological phenomenon with physiological, psychological, and pathological implications. …


Life can be difficult, but knowing what to say to your child doesn’t have to be.

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Photo by Jordan Whitt /Unsplash

Miscarriage. Deaths. Medical diagnoses. Health emergencies. Pandemic. Police murder. Evacuation. Infertility. Burglary.

These are all hard things. In the last year, each of these has touched my family, and I have talked my little kids through every one.

My children, who are currently almost three and five years old, have been through a lot in a year. Let’s face it — it’s 2020 — we all have. One of the jobs of adults is to make sense of things for the children in their lives. …


A reflection on the value of living in an urban area — in spite of everything

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Photo by Josh Hild on Unsplash

This weekend, my family and I escaped the city. We zipped our suitcases, buckled our seatbelts, and drove away from Minneapolis, where we live. We took I-94W and US 10-W and Country Road 23 and kept going until the numbers stopped mattering as much as the direction we were headed: up north, to the country.

When we got to the place where the Mississippi River begins, we stopped driving. We stayed in a little red cabin with a sleek metal roof. Inside the cabin, there were knotted wood walls and a big window over the couch that looked out on a blue lake edged in tall green pines. It looked like a painting of an idea. …


Self-pity doesn’t help me or my kids

A young Asian girl is doing her homework at her desk.
A young Asian girl is doing her homework at her desk.
Photo: Jason Sung/Unsplash

Whenever I tell people that my oldest child begins remote kindergarten this month, they simply say, “I am so sorry.”

To be honest, my default response is to feel sorry for myself, too. This is not how I pictured my five-year-old entering his first year of elementary school and his almost-three-year-old brother starting preschool. Since March, I haven’t been able to shake the sense that I’m stuck in the wrong timeline. How am I going to manage the school days of two young kids, each with a special education plan and low daily tolerance for video chats? …


A reflection on living during the Covid-19 pandemic, social justice uprisings, and infertility

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Photo by Solen Feyissa on Unsplash

When my neighbor waved at me from the other side of the street, I imagined his lips moving on the other side of his mask as he asked, “How’re you doing?” I must have taken too long to answer because he squinted his eyes and added, “How’re you coping?”

His words pinned me. I felt like a specimen on an insect display: I wanted to be seen, but this inquiry was more than I had bargained for. I said the words I could find, the expected ones, “I’m fine.” …


How the mindfulness practice of RAIN can protect your mental health during the coronavirus crisis

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Photo by Jared Rice on Unsplash

In beforetimes, the screentime bar graph on my iPhone, which shows how much time I spend on the device, was a neat collection of short rectangles. I took pride in my self-control. I enjoyed putting my energy elsewhere.

And after the coronavirus?

Well, on a typical June morning, I hit the Time Limit warning I programmed on Twitter before I finished my coffee, and, as I sipped, I thumbed right past the OK button and mashed hard on “Ignore Limit For Today.”

There are stories I could tell about why my phone use shot up so dramatically. I was reading the news! I was learning about important things! …


How perfectionism can undermine the work of dismantling White supremacy culture

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Photo: AlenaPaulus/Getty Images

In the aftermath of the murder of George Floyd in my neighborhood, I wrote about my experience as a White mother talking to my White children about race, justice, and how we can do what’s right. I shared how I was worried about getting these conversations wrong, but that I knew I had to start them anyway.

Many fellow parents reached out to me, all saying some version of the same thing: They, too, had been so worried about fumbling, and saying the wrong thing, and not being able to answer hard questions that they’ve avoided this conversation with their kids altogether. …


How I learned to live with pain and possibility.

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Photo by David Clode on Unsplash

When a butterfly emerges from its chrysalis, it has at most two hours to stretch out its wings. If it doesn’t, its wings will dry shut. The butterfly will never fly. It can’t live. That’s it. There isn’t anything anyone can do.

I learned that last summer when my children and I started collecting butterfly eggs. Rescuing, we called it. That summer, my two boys and I spent the long days scanning the undersides of milkweed, parsley, and dill for butter-colored beads of possibility. …


All parents, whatever our skin color, must demand something better for our country than a militarized police force.

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Photo by Alec Favale on Unsplash

“Mama, aren’t police supposed to help people?”

It was a reasonable question. We had, after all, called police “community helpers” in our home until May 25, 2020.

My 4-year-old, who is white like me, asked this question because of what happened that Memorial Day. That day, just a two-minute bike ride from where my son will go to kindergarten, a police offer pressed his knee into the neck of a man named George Floyd for such a long time that Mr. Floyd died.

I have written at length about what I said to my children in the days after George Floyd died. I have talked to my children about why people are angry. I have talked to them about why Black Lives Matter. But this question, this one haunts me. I think it haunts me because I, too, wonder, in a way that I have not wondered before: Aren’t police supposed to help people? …


White people like me need to listen to black people and keep talking to our children about race, justice, and what’s right.

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Photo by munshots on Unsplash

“What are the odds, do you think, that our house will be destroyed tonight?”

When we began to assign probabilities to the particular risks of our particular block in our particular neighborhood where the police murdered George Floyd — the gas station on the corner, the minority-owned businesses across our alley, the intersection of two major commercial corridors — it was the day before the fifth night of the uprising. When I heard us, my husband and I, get into the weeds about whether a Bayesian inference resulted in a probability of bodily harm that was greater or less than COVID-19’s presumed mortality rate, I knew it was time to go. …

About

Emily PG Erickson

Writer with a master’s degree in psychology. Helpful, science-backed writing about mental health, mindfulness, and motherhood. www.emilypgerickson.com

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