I’m not sure exactly when or why I started, but at some point as a small child, I realized there was comfort in counting. I was a kid with big feelings, and they became especially overwhelming when I was lying in bed, trying to quiet my worries so I could sleep. Pushing the thoughts away (as was sometimes suggested by well-meaning adults) never worked. I had to replace the swirling thoughts with something, anything to focus on. Maybe I got the idea from all those cartoons depicting character counting animated sheep. Maybe counting was just an early skill I’d acquired and wanted to master. Whatever the reason, counting was my go-to tool for settling my mind. Sometimes I’d could inhales and exhales as a somewhat innaccurate timer to figure out which was longer. Sometimes I’d count as high as I could just to see if I could get to a million before I fell asleep.
Bit long ago I learned a breathing technique to help regulate the nervous system and stimulate the parasympathetic nervous system. It involves counting inhales to 4 and exhales to 8. The first time I practiced this exercise and felt a rush of calm, I wasn’t sure if it was my nervous system responding as promised or the nostalgia of counting breath as I had as an anxious child. Either way, it’s valuable and become one of my favorite tools. 💗