Does your life sometimes resemble the old game show, “Beat the Clock”? For those of you who are too young to remember, contestants in this game show were given multiple things to carry or handle while completing several tasks simultaneously. They had too keep it all together and not drop anything before the buzzer sounded. I know my life has sometimes resembled this wacky combination of mental gymnastics and physical acrobatics. How many times does a of this scenario happen in your day-to-day: you are on the phone with a friend in crisis while cooking dinner and writing a check for a bill you meant to pay yesterday when the delivery person rings the doorbell and the dog starts barking and your husband/wife yells from the bathroom, “Honey, can you get that please…..”? And, oh yeah, your teenager is waiting impatiently for a ride to a friend’s house who just happens to live across town…where all the traffic is….and he can only find one of his favorite socks.
Certainly there are systems we can devise to prepare us for a less chaotic, ordered life, but life doesn’t always give us that chance. Unexpected things come up, or the needs of our selves and our loved ones face off in a competition. So, we can change some things, but eventually we cannot avoid chaos on the outside that can lead to tension on the inside. We can, however, fortify and protect our inner selves. My family has a group of “Thelma-isms to help convey the feeling and to redirect our expectations using humor. Thelma-isms are based on the sayings of a very dear (but earthy and irreverent) aunt of mine. When her schedule was filled beyond capacity and someone would ask her to do that “one more thing”, she would say, “Just stick a broom up my ass and I’ll sweep the sidewalk too.”
Here are some strategies that have worked for me:
*While going about your day-to-day, notice what you say “yes” to, how you interact with people. Notice what kind of energy you are taking on from them by asking, “How does it feel to be with this person/these people right now? Ask yourself, is this efficiency OR is it frenzy? If I can’t avoid the multiple tasks at hand by delaying them or reassigning them to someone else or another day, then how am I perceiving my well being in this very moment? Am I expecting to be miserable or am I letting go of expectation and focusing on the moment-to-moment experience? Am I able to see the humor/irony in being so incredibly trusted with such a plethora of tasks?
**Life hurls us into the deep waters at times and there appears to be no life preservers or islands of land anywhere in sight. What do we do? Well, we have choices. We can flail our arms and legs around, screaming and cursing the churning surf. If we do this, our chances of drowning are very high. We can also gently and steadily tread water until we find something to drift to shore on or our rescue ship arrives. Our chances of survival appear to be far greater with the latter choice. Take some reflection time today and think about the last time life hurled you into the briny deep. What was your reaction and how did you negotiate the circumstances? What did you learn from that experience? How did your perceptions of the situation drive your behavior? If you had the chance for a do-over, would you choose to respond differently?
Just Remember to Breathe, Breathe, Breathe
Have you ever watched a new born baby sleeping? Such a relaxed and peaceful state! If you were observing closely, you would notice that they breathe from the diaphragm. As we grow up this natural way of breathing gradually gives way to shallow breathing from the chest. Retraining yourself to breathe is an important part in restoring the proper flow of oxygen to the body. Not only do we receive the gift of the air we need to nourish our physical selves, we get the benefit of tension release.
*Try this: Stand or sit comfortably, back straight. Place your hands on your belly and imagine that it is a big balloon. As you inhale, the balloon inflates. Feel your belly rising. Take as deep a breath as you are comfortable with, filling the chest and diaphragm with fresh, clean air. Now release the breath and feel the balloon in your belly deflating. Repeat this several times. Do you feel different? Maybe a little light headed? Try to remember to do this at points of the day when you have a few moments, like breaks, lunchtime, when you are stuck in traffic, or before bed. The more you practice this full breath, the more you will be conscious when you are not getting enough air.