Sitting in my home office, hurrying to check things off my to-do list before the kids scream in the door after school, the phone rang.
“Hi, this is Eric’s mom,” the cheery voice said on the other end of the line. “Eric was wondering if Grant would like to join his LEGO robotics team? They’ve discussed it in school and apparently Grant is really excited about it….”
“I’m sorry. What is this exactly?” I asked, completely confused. As usual, Grant hadn’t informed me about this new activity.
“The kids build robots together…we meet for an hour a week at my house…blah blah blah…,” she explained.
As she talked I thought about the logistics of adding this to my schedule. So, every Tuesday Grant will get home, quickly do homework, I’ll race him over to the robotics team thing, then we’ll race back home put on his soccer gear and drive over to indoor soccer training. I'll get home just after 5:00 pm, throw something on the table for dinner and race back to pick him up from soccer practice.
And that didn’t account for anything going on with my two daughters, myself or my husband. And that’s just Tuesday. The other six days of the week are equally ridiculous.
Shaking my head and in a voice more forceful than I meant it to be, I said, “No. I can’t do it. I can’t do one more thing.”
“Well, it wouldn’t take up a lot of time. It’s just an hour…” she continued.
“No,” I reiterated. “I’m sorry. I just can’t. My schedule is crazy. Grant's got winter soccer. Amanda's got field hockey. If I commit to one more thing I think I might have a breakdown.”
“Oh,” she said, pausing before adding. “Eric was really looking forward to having Grant on the team.”
“I’m sorry,” I said, “I just can’t.”
Hanging up the phone I placed my head in my hands and rested for a minute. To-do list items careened around my brain—social commitments, kid activities, work deadlines. I could feel my heart racing, my breathing becoming faster and more shallow.
Adding to my already elevated stress level is the holiday season. With shopping, shipping, wrapping and entertaining added to my already packed schedule, this girl is ready for the psych ward—for its soothing white décor, hushed voices, padded walls and the mildly restrictive white jacket. If I could request a straight jacket in black (black’s more slimming, you know) I think I’d admit myself.
Since I really don’t have time for a nervous breakdown, I did the next best thing.
Breathe. Just breathe.
One of the basic tenets of the In8 program is to incorporate meditation into your everyday life. While I struggle to find the time for a full 20-30 minute daily session, I have found that taking time to breathe deeply gives me a sense of calm.
I’ve posted about Dr. Andrew Weil’s relaxation breathing technique before, but I think it bears repeating. This takes five minutes. FIVE MINUTES! I do it in the car at a stop light, sitting at my desk, even waiting in line at the grocery store. It's fabulous.
Here it is:
The 4-7-8 Breathing Exercise
Sit with your back straight while learning the exercise. Place the tip of your tongue against the ridge of tissue just behind your upper front teeth, and keep it there through the entire exercise. You will be exhaling through your mouth around your tongue; try pursing your lips slightly if this seems awkward.
· Exhale completely through your mouth, making a whoosh sound.
· Close your mouth and inhale quietly through your nose to a mental count of four.
· Hold your breath for a count of seven.
· Exhale completely through your mouth, making a whoosh sound to a count of eight.
· This is one breath. Now inhale again and repeat the cycle three more times for a total of four breaths.
As you venture out to join the mall crowds or try to tackle that neverending to-do list, take a few minutes and just breathe. It’ll calm your nerves, lower your heart rate and help you accomplish those commitments in a calmer, more relaxed manner.