There are moments in life when all the unfortunate things tend to arrive simultaneously. There are days when the “Mom. Mom. Mom. Mama.” seem endless. Some weeks it feels like you might just break. It’s near impossible to imagine the “what ifs” in a positive light when this happens. You want to escape. You need to break the surface for just a moment or you feel you might drown.
When the world gets this heavy, I encourage you to breathe. Take a long, slow inhale for five seconds and hold it for another five seconds. Exhale for five seconds. Hold it. Do it again. This is called “box breathing” because you can visualize yourself breathing the perimeter of a box.
- Visualize a box.
- Breathe in as you travel up one side.
- Hold your breath as you travel along the top.
- Exhale as you journey down the other side.
- Hold the breath as you travel along the bottom.
Breathe through your nostrils. By doing so, you are able to slow your breath and activate the vagal nerve. The vagal nerve stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system, which is the part of our body that comes into play to calm us (bring us back to homeostasis) after we encounter a “fight or flight” situation. This type of breathing is used in the training of Navy SEALS to calm them when their body naturally goes into “fight or flight” mode. As you practice box breathing, you will find the amount of time that works best for you. I usually feel some relief with five trips around the box.
I Breathe To Not Yell
I am not in a war zone but I am on the front line of my household. I use box breathing multiple times daily. When I am in the car and the kids are fighting in the back seat, I breathe. When I am making dinner and the kids ask me what I’m making for the sixth time in ten minutes, I breathe. When I am trying to juggle life and a child breaks something in the midst of a mean game of indoor tag, I breathe.
I breathe so I can respond appropriately. I am a reformed yeller. I used to yell at my children a lot. I would feel my emotions overflowing from the myriad of things in life and they would spill out into yelling. It wasn’t fair to my children. It wasn’t fair to me. I was on a rollercoaster of emotions and it would leave me sick to my stomach. Rollercoasters can be fun, but no one wants to ride them every day.
Involve The Kids
My children are often a part of my breathing. When the questions start coming at a record pace and I start breathing, my children know to put their hand on my hand. I will touch their hand to acknowledge that they need to speak with me and they wait for me to address their needs. This allows me to breathe for as long as I need to to be in a place to respond to them with compassion or amusement at whatever brilliant childhood thing they must show me.
“Take a deep breath” used to sound condescending to me. Without even trying it, I would dismiss it as some trivial thing that couldn’t even come close to resolving the tightness in my chest or rollercoaster in my gut. Then I tried it and it has become my adult pacifier. It doesn’t make all my problems go away, but it makes it so much easier to face them.