Natalie Deering: COVID can trigger past health stressors, deep breathing exercises can help

At this point most people have a history of COVID, whether it’s an experience, knowing someone who had it, or knowing someone who sadly died of it, we all have been affected in one way or another.

In honor of Mental Health Awareness Month, I’d like to share my experience with COVID, the connection it had to past childhood health stressors, and the deeper healing experience. that I was able to accomplish.

My symptoms with COVID started out very mild, eventually progressing to a dry cough and upper respiratory irritation, but luckily nothing ever needed medical attention or hospital. I took my vitamins and supplements, followed the CDC’s recommended guidelines for isolation, and waited for the appropriate time until it was safe to be with loved ones again. . But as the days passed, I started noticing chest tightness, tightness and irritation in the lungs during my daily activities.

After a few days, even as the symptoms began to subside and the COVID virus was no longer detectable in my system, I began to feel irritable and anxious. I noticed parts of me worrying that the symptoms of anxiety that I had once experienced in my life would come back and eventually take over. “Oh no!” I thought I didn’t want to experience that overwhelming anxiety again, and very soon worry and resistance to anxiety began to increase my irritability with those around me and diminish my ability to stay present in the moment. instant.

Natalie Deering is a mental health therapist and owner of ND Wellness Psychological Services in northern Kentucky. Visit his website at

One evening I attended a virtual counseling group with six other IFS (internal family systems) therapists where I shared parts of me feeling anxious and irritable regarding COVID symptoms that had impacted my breathing . As I was sharing with the group, it came to my attention that I felt my anxious and irritable parts were being triggered by past experiences I had when I was younger. I remembered that at a young age I had been exposed to tuberculosis and eventually had many cases of pneumonia, bronchitis and asthma symptoms. When I realized the connection between my childhood experiences and the current lung issues I was experiencing, I knew I had to meet with my own IFS therapist to address this idea, and luckily I already had a session scheduled for the week. next.

As I waited for my IFS session to begin, I engaged in embodiment work by rolling my feet, back and chest with a therapy ball until it was time for my virtual appointment. As I used the therapy ball on my body and the tension began to release, I suddenly heard the statement, “I can’t breathe!” The statement was loud and clear in my mind and I knew immediately that it was related to the part of me that was triggered by my experience of chest tightness and upper respiratory issues.

During my therapy session, I was grateful that I was able to connect to the much younger part of me that carried the burden of fear and anxiety related to past health stressors regarding my lungs. and my breathing. I was able to witness the experience of my younger part, provide her with what she needed at the time but did not get, and then invite her to come to the present with me to release the burdens of his body. Once her burdens of fear and anxiety were released, she was able to invite the qualities of calm, confidence and courage.

After my session, I felt lighter and freer, my lungs were clear and open, and the younger part of me felt safe and calm. By inviting this younger part to release the burdens of fear and anxiety, I was finally able to confidently believe that my lungs were healthy and strong. The younger part of me was no longer stuck in the past, activating my anxiety by telling me that I was in danger. She could see that there was no longer any reason for the anxiety and irritability to hold, she was safe, I was safe, and so I could finally accept that I was healthy and that my body had healed.

I hope that by sharing my experience with COVID and how it activated my past health trauma, you can see how IFS can eventually help you access calm and resilience in the face of stressors, past and present. If you would like to learn more about the IFS healing and relief process, please visit the IFS Institute at for more information and to find an IFS therapist in your area.

Our breath is a beautiful and amazing tool. There are many ways to invite balance and regulation with different types of breathing exercises. Here are some breathing techniques you can invite into your daily practice to help you connect to your inner strength and resilience:

1. Spine filled with light: Sit comfortably. Eyes open or closed. Bring awareness to your breath. Pay attention to your spine. Feel its internal support extending from the stable base of your pelvis to the top of your head. Allow each breath to invite a little more space between the vertebrae, gently lengthening your spine. Imagine your spine transforming from a solid structure into a warm, glowing beam of light. Focus on this image of light infusing your whole being, allowing you to become brighter and more radiant as you sit for 5-10 minutes in meditation.

2. Alternate Nostril Breathing: Sit comfortably. Eyes open or closed. Gently place your right thumb over your right nostril and your right ring finger gently over your left nostril. Gently close your right nostril with your thumb and inhale through the left nostril. Gently close your left nostril with your left ring finger and exhale through the right nostril. Inhale through the right nostril with the left nostril still gently closed. Gently close your right nostril and exhale through the left nostril before inhaling through the left nostril again. Repeat for 2-5 minutes.

3. Mantra Breathing: Sit comfortably. Eyes open or closed. Say to yourself “I am” on the inhale, then on the exhale say a word that resonates with what you need energetically. For example, “I am…calm”.