Breathing gets oxygen into your cells and removes carbon dioxide and other toxins from your tissues.
Slow, deep breathing reduces your heart rate and blood pressure. It also gives you a better balance of oxygen and carbon dioxide in your blood.
Deep breathing increases your ability to concentrate, focus, and think more clearly.
Ahh, wouldn’t that be nice?
The first step to controlling your cortisol and adrenaline is taking slow, deep breaths.
Coincidentally, the first step to meditation is also taking slow, deep breaths.
The next time you feel your anxiety or frustration levels rise, just breathe as slowly and deeply as possible, for as long as you can stand it.
One of the reasons I don’t practice as a Marriage & Family Therapist anymore is that while I really like to be helpful…
I also really like to control stuff.
I will help you whether you like it or not!
I used to think about my clients’ problems all the time. Constantly. I’d imagine what they could say or do that might ease their emotional pain. But, I didn’t have the patience to allow them to heal at their own pace. I’d get frustrated.
This is not a new problem for me. I was always a bossy little thing. Even in kindergarten, my childhood friend George had to be separated from me and placed into another classroom. Apparently, I bossed him around all the time. Sorry about that, George!
In high school, I thought it was my job to make sure all the girls in my cheerleading squad were on time to practice. Yes, I admit it. I was a cheerleader. But, I wasn’t one of those annoying ones.
I was so annoying. I even annoyed the other cheerleaders. I’d drive around picking everyone up if they couldn’t get to practice on time. I was appalled when nobody agreed to choreograph a new routine for our senior year performance.
They just wanted to do the same old routine so they could spend their free time enjoying their last year of high school. What kind of crazy thinking is that?
I was a total pain in the ass. Of course, I finally realized this about myself (a few months ago). I am much better now. Well, I’m learning how to Let It Be, which helps tremendously.
Let It Be
This, my friend, is the golden key to reducing excess stress in your life. Let it be. It means to let go. It means not spending your time and energy trying to control or change others. It means releasing your expectations.
Yes, people can change. But it’s rarely because you want them to change. Or, because you need them to change. Or, because you they really ought to change.
What do you let go of?
Let go of your judgements towards others. (Judgements about their thoughts, words, and actions.)
Let go of trying to control others. (Controlling their thoughts, words, and actions.)
Let go of feeling offended by others. (Offended by their… Yeah, you got it.)
Let go of the judgements you carry toward yourself.
I know, this is hard. But, I promise, it’s worth it. When you’re able to Let It Be, you let go of judgement towards others. You let go of judgements towards yourself. You let go of what you wish had happened.
You accept what IS.
One of the things that helps me Let It Be…
A daily mantra; I’m so thankful I allow others to act and speak with acceptance, love, and understanding.
Thinking Toxic Thoughts?
When there’s a particularly terrible thought that keeps looping in my mind..
like something bad might happen to one of my children, or worrying about how someone might react to an email I just sent out,
I imagine my brain as a large cement domed room.
In my hand, I have a big hose. I also have a big old-fashioned broom.
I imagine spraying down the entire room. Then, I sweep down the floor.
I try to focus on the water. Focus on the walls. Focus on the floor. By the time I’m done, it’s easier for me to move on to the next thing I need to do.
I hate cleaning, but this really seems to help me.
Ever feel like you need a time-out?
If you’re like me, you might benefit from several time-outs a day. Just few minutes to breathe, calm down, and adjust my perspective a bit.
Sometimes, I realize I’m about to cry or scream into a pillow because of some tiny little thing that never would have bothered me if…
I hadn’t been woken up 12 times the night before,
sat in pee on the toilet seat (after showering),
reminded one kid to please take his cereal bowl to the sink for the 157th time,
found a pile of rocks in my purse,
stubbed my pinky toe on the leg of the dining table,
and then found I had no clean shirts because I forgot to put the laundry into the drier the night before.
How about Spaghetti & Meatball Mondays…
Walk in the Park Wednesdays…Board Game Fridays…or Movie Night Sundays?
I always remember my mom talking about how her family had tacos on Fridays nights. Seems so simple, right?
Kids may not remember that $800 trip to Disneyland or that really expensive lego set you bought for their 10th birthday, but they will remember the stuff you did regularly.
What do you remember most from your childhood? Let me rephrase, What do you remember fondly from your childhood?
It’s often the activities that cost nothing extra, happen on a regular basis, and get people laughing and smiling that’ll make that happy stamp mark in your child’s memory.
I remember eating dinner at a big wooden oval-shaped dining table at my neighbor’s house, with their three awesomely loud and boisterous kids. We’d laugh so hard that one of us would inevitably snort milk out of our noses.
Painful and gross now. Absolutely fantastic and utterly hilarious then. It was the best.
Family Compliment Circles
This is really helpful when two or more family members are consistently at odds with one another. Everyone sits in a circle and says one thing they admire or like about the family member to their left.
I like doing this right before bedtime. It’s a nice way to end the day. Everyone appreciates hearing nice things about themselves.
And when the complement comes from a sibling’s mouth, it’s even better. (Especially when it’s a sibling you secretly think hates you.)
I always find that the tension in the house goes down a notch after we do this little tradition.
We only have so many hours in a day. So much energy.
This is why it’s so important to stop and think:
How do I want to spend my precious and limited resources?
Think back to yesterday: What did you spend most of your time doing? How did you use your mental and emotional energy?
Now ask yourself,
Do those thoughts and actions align with what’s most important to me?
Got a Sneaky Belief?
Everyday we walk around walk carrying our Sneaky Beliefs. Beliefs about ourselves, our role in the family, how much money we should earn, or what type of life we should be living.
These beliefs are super duper sneaky. They shadow us. Whispering quietly as we watch a soccer game, make dinner, or fix the toilet.
Psssd. Hey there Mama, you’re not supposed to make more money than your husband.
Psssd. Don’t bother trying to lose weight because it’s never going to happen.
Psssd. This guy doesn’t really love you because you don’t deserve it.
Sometimes these Sneaky Beliefs come from our culture, our society, or our parents.
What lurking beliefs do you have about women? Being a parent? Having money?
How do we squish the ones that aren’t helpful to us?
1) Do I really believe this now, as an adult?
2) How did this belief come into my life? Who planted it? When?
3) What might my life have been like if I never carried this belief? What choices might I’d have made differently?
On the first day of art class in college, the professor asked us to paint a picture of a classmate’s face. This was “Painting Fundamentals.” What about, Here’s how to mix colors or Try shading like this to create some depth? Nope. Day One: Paint a face.
Clearly she meant to weed out the natural artists from us imposters.
My painting was awful. It looked like something your six-year-old might draw with his non-dominant hand, while blindfolded, after a dose of Benadryl. She sauntered over to see my painting at the end of the class period and said, “Did you even look at his face?”
I mustered my way through the semester and she reluctantly gave me a B-, which I now believe single-handedly screwed up my GPA.
Her reaction and my failure to learn anything in the class led me to accept the belief that I was not, and never could be, an artist.
Twelve years passed before I picked up another paint brush. At the time, I was thoroughly depressed about not being able to get pregnant. Every month I’d obsess. I was emotionally exhausted from riding the roller coaster between hopeful excitement and utter sadness. “Ha! ha! ha!” said the universe, “You’re not pregnant! Again!”
The fertility specialist said, “Don’t worry. We’ll just knock you out and remove your fallopian tubes. Then, we’ll do IFV. No big deal.”
Have I mentioned yet that I cannot do needles? My heart races, I spew sweat, my adrenaline spikes, my eyeballs roll back in my head, and then I pass out. I knew IVF would never work for me. We decided that adoption would be our answer. But that’s an entirely different story I’ll save for another time.
So in an attempt to distract myself from my infertility, I began to paint. I loved it. It saved my sanity. After a couple years, I started getting so much positive feedback on my paintings that I scheduled a few art shows.
You’re not supposed to do this in the world of art galleries. But, I don’t really do well with rules that make no sense to me. If people like my work and want to spend money on it, you’d better bet I’m gonna find a way to sell it to them!
Three years, two babies, and a few art shows later, I’d sold over $20,000 in paintings.
In your face Professor B.!
Don’t internalize a belief that prevents you from doing something you love.
Sometimes your happiest place is where you least expect it.
I never thought I would be a stay-at-home-mom of four boys, homeschooling them, and traveling the U.S. with a touring Broadway Musical.
If you would have told me twenty years ago that’s where I was headed, I’d have laughed aloud and said, “clearly you are high and have me confused with someone else!”
Yet, here I am, almost a decade into my life as a mom… and I’ve intentionally made all of these choices.
You’re on your own and you know what you know.
And you are the one who’ll decide where to go.
– Dr. Seuss
Listening to your “gut” and being very honest about what you want and how you feel is far more important than you may think. That’s where the rubber hits the road. That’s where you have to make a decision.
Problem is, you are so distracted, you often miss it. You’re loaded up with so many responsibilities, barely able to keep afloat in the torrential current of your life.
How can you begin to steer the boat, when you’re so exhausted just trying to catch your breath?
What happens if you focus on your flaws? Well, it’s like going through life facing backward. Why did I do that? I’m such an idiot! What is wrong with me? We are completely focused on the past.
Meanwhile, the planet is moving forward. It’s progressing. Surprise, this is not an episode of Black Mirror or The Twilight Zone! Everyone else is not suspended in space, indefinitely waiting for you to get your shit together.
What if you acknowledge your weaknesses? Briefly. Go ahead and touch on them for a moment then move on.
If time is moving forward and you’re still looking backward, you’re completely missing out on the present AND not giving yourself the opportunity to direct your future. Even if the planet COULD pause for you go ahead to beat yourself up, how long would you need? A few hours? A couple of weeks? Months?
Instead, be like George Burns who said, “I look to the future because that’s where I’m going to spend the rest of my life.”
Be honest with yourself about your weaknesses but don’t linger on them.
Focus on what you enjoy; what you are good at. If you don’t know what that is, it’s likely because you’ve been spending way too long focusing on your weaknesses or past screw-ups.
All of my wins have come from leveraging strengths instead of fixing weaknesses.
– Tim Ferriss
The Hip Hop Reflection
– For those of you also surrounded by laundry
I never thought I would be a stay-at-home mom.
I never thought I would have FOUR children.
I never thought I would decide to home-school those children.
Yet here I am, almost a decade into my life as a mom… and I’ve intentionally made all of these choices.
About five years ago, I was sitting alone on this gross brown rental couch in New Orleans, surrounded by several loads of laundry, watching old “Friends” episodes while Jaimie was working late. The kids were finally asleep; one in a red plastic race-car bed, one in a pack-n-play next to him, and the third in another pack-n-play in a bathroom. (Remember, no judging!)
And this was a huge step up from the creepy haunted house we had just left, with the cockroaches (not ghost-roaches, real ones) stovetop burners that magically turned on in the middle of the night, and a creepy long-hair-girl face who showed up on the screen of my baby monitor one night!
My universe shifted, and the shit hit the fan, when my youngest started walking. I woke up to the glaring fact that I now had four sons and a husband, no career, two worthless masters degrees, a perpetual extra 10lbs, and an intense feeling that I had no individual identity. Major first world problem, I get it. I had been through a divorce in my early 20s, bankruptcy, an eating disorder… but none of that hit me like this hit me.I believe now it was because I was swimming in guilt.
I should be so happy! I should be so grateful! I should just chill out and realize my children were still so young. I should…I should…I should.I wanted to do SO MUCH more, but what? And EVERYone I complained to seemed (to me) to be telling me to chill the f*ck out, that my kids were still so young, enjoy this time, blah blah blah blah. I couldn’t relate and could not take that advice. Not only did it not help me, it made me feel guilty that I couldn’t just do what they said and enjoy the moment and be grateful. What was wrong with me?The light of a solution started seeping in when I took my two oldest sons to a hip–hop dance class. I watched them through the glass and recorded every move on my phone.
Later that night, I noticed something that would forever change my life. In the video, you could see a reflection of my face in the glass. In it, I had a giant goofy smile plastered across my face.At that moment I resolved to find whatever would cause me to make that face more often.
Seems like such a silly little thing, but it often doesn’t take much. It doesn’t have to be a terrible medical diagnosis or a major car accident to have a huge impact in your life.
The key was this; I finally realized that what makes me happy, doesn’t necessarily make others happy and vice versa. That’s why it is so incredibly important to make decisions for ourselves, according to our own goals and values.
Allowing judgement in, whether from others, from our culture, from society at large, or from our own psyche, will only distract us from achieving our goals. And make us feel really crappy.
Unfortunately, we’ve become so accustomed to judging and competing and comparing ourselves to one another. Maybe it’s been in our DNA from tribal times, and served us well then? It happens all the time, and we are all (women especially) very good at it. But it doesn’t mean that we cannot call ourselves out on this destructive and bitchy behavior. In fact, now more than ever, we should put down our weapons and not only be kind to one another, but be kind to ourselves. Be kind. And listen.
(One of my “happy-making-moments” is now going to my own dance classes. Here’s a quick video of one of my hip hop classes…I’m the one on the far left.)
-For those obsessive goal-setters who LOVE lists
I know, I know… the metaphor may seem strange. Especially since I’ve only fished once in my life and it was quite unsuccessful. I’m pretty sure I cried on the way home because my cousin Michael had caught all the fish and I had to sit in the back seat because he “got car sick”. The audacity!
Anyway… In seeking your goals, dreams, plans for your future, are you using a spear to catch your fish, or a fishing line?
Most of us list-junkies have become SO incredibly effective at using spears to catch fish, we’ve accomplished quite a lot. We see our target, filter out unimportant distractions, sharpen the spear, get in position, determine the exact right moment, then…. STRIKE with brute determination and physical force! YES! We’re awesome!! (Insert little dance where arms go around in a horizontal circle while you alternately lean left to right. No no no. Not like that! Ok, ok, let’s just move on.)
The pride and satisfaction that follows can be like a drug. (Most likely oxytocin and dopamine.)
Few things compare to the high after spearing a big fish. Hell, even a small fish is a big deal. Honestly, has anyone here ever added an item to your “to do” list that you already completed, just to be able to cross it off heroically? I totally get it. I do it all the time.
The fish represent our goals and dreams. Some are big, some small, some are near, and some we cannot even see. Once we catch them, some are super tasty and delicious, yet others are totally poisonous. (Some fish are poisonous, right?! Otherwise this analogy is not quite as cool as I think. Yes, I know I can just ask The Google, but sometimes I like to pretend it’s 1987. Ok? And seriously, the music was SO great, right?!)
The problem with using a spear is this; we will only ever catch the fish we can see and can reach, we cannot focus on anything else around us, and it takes a lot of concentration and energy. What if, instead of using a spear, we picked up a fishing line, sat on the bank (with a beer or cup of our favorite coffee and a good book) and waited for the line to tug?
We still need to walk to the lake, pick a spot, set up the line, bait it, and throw it out into the water. We also need to notice and take action when the line catches, then reel it in quickly and steadily. In the meantime though, we just chill. Look around. Enjoy the rest of our life. Watch out for bears. Play with the chinchillas.
The fishing line forces us to focus on the real end-goal, not the specific things you THINK might be right for you. “I want THAT silver fish with the blue speck on its tail!”
If we know, “I want a job that takes me outside, where I can be creative, and work with an amazing and inspiring team of people”; then, we are far more likely to reach our goal. By being too focused and controlling of each and every step along our path, it’s easy to lose sight of the REAL goals.
Is it really that VP position at your current company? Or is it any position that would offer flex-time, a great vacation package, creative control, and an incredible boss? Do you really want to weigh 130 pounds or do you want to be healthy, feel great, and look incredible in your underwear?
Our true goals and dreams in life are the feelings. What do we want to feel on a daily basis? Security? Joy? Excitement? Love? Challenge? If we try to control exactly HOW we get those things, we may not get them at all. We can still succeed in spearing many fish, but we may not end up liking the taste of them and it may not be worth everything we missed out on while we were so busy focusing on the fish swimming around our feet.
If we can let go of our spears and take a fishing line approach to our life goals, then we can enjoy our friends and families, focus on our true end-goals, and save some of our time and energy for hikes and board games and tennis lessons and learning to play the guitar (or anything else you’ve wanted to do since you were 15 years old).
So throw down your spears (carefully) and grab your poles (ahem, you know what I mean) and let’s catch those fish we’ve never even imagined in our wildest dreams!
Recommended temporary treatment for control-junkies… as soon as possible, go to a Korean Spa near you and order a scrub treatment. You’ll find yourself accosted by a sweet Korean woman in black grandma panties, led to a room full of metal tables (kind of like a morgue), then you’ll lay naked on the table while she scrubs several layers of skin from your body and flops you around like a rag-doll. No room for modesty, control, or anything. You just have to let go and take it. I figure it’s like a cheaper, PG-version of those billionaire businessmen who hire dominatrixes. Or does that just happen in movies? I’m not sure.