Fargo VA Health Care System
I CARE Story - Whole Health
Whole health, one breath at a time
Danielle Olauson, RN Care Manager, considered how she could start to implement some of the tools she learned in the Transformative Nursing and Whole Health courses.
She decided to incorporate teaching Veterans counted breathing as part of their appointments focused on hypertension.
After going through the standard recommendations for lowering blood pressure, -- such as maintaining a healthy weight, decreasing salt and alcohol intake, and increasing exercise -- she started to ask Veterans, “Has anyone ever shown you breathing exercises to lower your blood pressure?”
For the Veterans who are open to the new education, she demonstrates a simple 4 by 4 breath, and practices 2-3 breaths with them. When she’s done, she re-evaluates their blood pressure.
They are always amazed by the drop in numbers in such a short time! She also gives the Veteran a copy of the handout titled “Breathing Exercise” for home reference.
It’s a small step, but has shown measurable change, and it’s a good beginning tool to introduce breathing as a stress reduction, centering, and blood-pressure lowering tool.
Instructions for ‘4 by 4’ breathing technique: Place feet flat on the floor and sit tall. Close your eyes or fix your gaze to one point on the floor. Take one slow, deep breath. Next, instruct the patient to breathe in to the count of 4. Hold breath for the count of 4. Breathe out for the count of 4. Hold breath for the count of 4 once again. Repeat this as many times as you both feel comfortable for the next 1-2 minutes, but it only takes about three of these ‘4 by 4’ breathing exercises to feel a difference.