are you breathing?

Are You Breathing?

November 4, 2020

“Are you breathing, mama?”

I stared into my daughter’s big, grey eyes as she asked me this and I had to pause. The sound of her voice, the look in her eyes both pulled me into clear focus.

Until that moment, I was still stuck in a stress spiral. I hadn’t slept much the night before, staying up way past my bedtime with the hopes of better news from the polls.

Before I finally fell asleep last night, I kept thinking about a book I’ve read to my kids for the past 4 years.

It’s called “Waiting is Not Easy.”

I don’t necessarily have any lessons form the book to share. It’s just a sweet and silly picture book about 2 friends, Piggy and Gerald. Piggy has a gift for Gerald and Gerald struggles hard in the waiting for it.

The message is pretty great and the big reveal at the end is magical. The whole story is something kids and adults can resonate with easily, so it’s a favorite in our house.

Thinking about this book, the message that good things come to those who wait, and 

Today, as I stood at my computer, trying not to obsessively check the polls while also trying to write this blog and help my daughter with a school assignment and keep my son from feeling lonely and keep my youngest from eating fistfuls of glitter, laughter felt almost impossible.

I feel short-tempered with my kids. Impatient, frustrated, angry, exhausted, and scared.

In fact, I found myself getting irrationally angry about some school assignment she is struggling with.

I might have yelled once or 5 times.

Milly came right up to me, looked me in my eyes and said, “mommy, are you breathing?”

Then she gave me this brilliant advice:

Go outside and shut the door. Take 10 breaths in and 10 breaths out. Then come back inside. if you’re still angry, go breathe again.

I almost cried at the intelligence and kindness in this suggestion.

Instead, I did what she suggested. I walked out onto my back porch and closed the door. I stared out at the bright blue sky in between the branches of the crepe myrtle in my backyard. Just beyond those branches, I could see men standing on top of my neighbors houses, installing new roofs.

I took my first breath.

The exhale was drowned out by the sounds of an industrial strength nail gun, fixing the new shingles on for the roofs.

I breathed in and out again. The next 8 came even easier.

Milly was right.

Breathing helps.

To be clear, breathing isn’t going to make the election swing in one way or the other.

It’s not going to make all of the white men and women who voted for Trump suddenly remorseful for trying to re-elect a narcissistic, tax-evading, rapist. 

Focusing on your breath is also not going to make theTrump-loving Karen’s on your block less racist or less high on the fumes of internalized misogyny.

But taking a few moments to breathe in and breathe out will give you a little room between all of the thoughts and emotions and responsibilities and frustrations that are crowding your mental space.

Breathing also helps regulate your emotions, while also buying you time to make more conscious decisions.

In addition to breathing, there are a few other techniques you can do to help create a little physical or mental stress relief in the tense hours and days to come.

Relax your belly.

When was the last time you actually let go of holding your belly muscles? If it’s been awhile, relaxing your belly might take a few tries. Notice, too, if you have an immediate impulse to clench again once your belly relaxes, try to release it again. Part of this is that if you are standing, your core muscles work to help you stabilize your body and distribute your weight to where your body is most likely hold you up. The other part might be discomfort at having a relaxed belly or how the appearance of a relaxed belly makes you feel.

Oh and relax your butt, too while you’re at it.

This one is great if you find yourself clenching anywhere in your body.

Shake it out.

This might look like dancing or bouncing or just shaking your arms, legs, hands, feet, shoulders, hips, and head.

This one is great if you find you have a lot of nervous energy and constant train of thoughts.

Are you breathing?

Take Milly’s advice. Go outside. Take 10 breaths, slowly and intentionally. Observe how your breath is moving into your body and out of your body.

You can also try this fantastic breathing exercise shared on Instagram by my friend Lauren Mott.

This one is great if you are feeling overwhelmed.

Sensory countdown.

This is one of my favorites. 5 things you can see. 4 things you can feel. 3 things you can hear. 2 things you can smell. 1 thing you can taste.

This one is great when you are feeling ungrounded and uncertain.

Reach out.

Connect with a trusted friend or to a group of friends or in a safe space. Yes, this might be on social media — but that’s also the point of social media, right? Connection. Relationship-building. Support. Beyond all of the other stuff that has evolved alongside it, if you have communities that support you online, go hang out there for a bit. Then text your bestie or your sister or your favorite aunt who just gets you.

This one is great when you are feeling isolated.

There are many ways you can give your self a mental or physical break. These are just a few. Do you have any go-to’s for mental/physical stress relief? Share them in the comments.

If you’re looking for something more in-depth, check out my Yoga for Anxiety and Stress Relief class on YouTube.

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