Just Breathe

breath1Recently I’ve felt like I never have enough time in the day. My to-do list is never ending, however, I typically throw in the towel around 10pm and start to get ready for bed (5:45 am comes early!) Most nights it’s hard to shut off my mind because I’m still thinking about all the things I need to do or what’s on the agenda tomorrow. There are many things in life that we simply cannot control. However, I recently came across an article that reminded me of one thing that I can control: my breath. I don’t know about you, but breathing isn’t something I often (if ever) think about–I just do it. I doubt I am breathing as deeply as I should and I know that breathing deeper leads to more oxygen to your brain and a string of other good things. So I tried the breathing technique that the article recommended and I will admit that I thoroughly enjoyed it. It’s simple. It’s quick. And it works (or maybe it’s just in my head…doesn’t matter either way)! It’s called 4-7-8. You simply inhale for 4 counts through your nose; then hold your breath for 7 counts; and finally exhale through your mouth for 8 counts. I cannot say that it made me fall asleep instantly as the author claimed in her article, but it definitely made me stop and focus solely one one thing for a few moments: my breath.

So many things are fighting for our attention at every moment and we rarely take time to simply just be.  Now, I’m not a yogi, but I have started to incorporate this little breathing technique into my day when I find myself feeling stressed and I always feel a little bit better after it. Maybe it’s because my brain is getting more oxygen, or maybe it’s because I’m simply saying no to all the other other stimuli around me for just a minute.

I find deep breathing to not only relax my body, but it also relaxes my mind. It gives me a chance to “inhale” all the blessings I have and a chance to “exhale” all the negative thoughts I have running around. We are our own worst critics. We need to stop being so hard on ourselves.  Yelled at your students today? Exhale. Ate 5 cookies in the break room? Exhale. Your bedroom is a complete disaster even though you just picked it up yesterday? Exhale.  And the list goes on and on. We can choose to inhale only the things that are good for us: You’re beautiful. You’re a good teacher. You’re trying your best. It’s not easy and it’s not something that comes naturally to most of us, but with some practice, I think we can make a habit. So if you’re like me and find your mind to be constantly racing, try the 4-7-8 method. You’ve got nothing to lose.

breathe3

-Emily Elizabeth

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A Negative Nancy’s New View

Be Nice. We have – undoubtedly – all heard these words, but are we really integrating this into our every day, every hour/minute/moment lives? I will be honest; I have not – but I am really trying. When someone is rude, unapologetically late, or plainly unpleasant, it is sooo difficult to “be nice”. Our patience is tried and tried again, our attitude falters, and no matter how many times someone can tell you, “Don’t let it ruin your day,” it definitely may have dented it.

As a former debate team member and, later, mentor, I thrived on the “Negative” side of things. I loved being a pessimist among my friends, and, in retrospect, it was as though I was always fighting for the title of “Ultimate Debbie Downer”. On the Negative side, or what I viewed as the ‘realistic’ side, we would attempt to crush the Affirmative Team’s plan of action. This can easily be applied to everyday life: your partner wants you to change your evening routine, your co-worker wants to change the way you do paperwork, and your supervisor wants you to take on just one more client/project/report. But you don’t want to do those things, and therefore you are going to find reasons why it just isn’t going to work out.

Image                But, what is sometimes hard to realize is that their side – which is sometimes brighter and more optimistic – is also a realistic side and we should totally adopt it and go with it. You change your evening routine to spend more time with your partner, the new paperwork cuts the time to write a certain report in half, the new client/project/report is a huge boost to your portfolio and you grow to be passionate about it. Whatever it may be, it is not so bad living on the Affirmative Side.

What am I really getting to? Recently, I realized that my way of thinking has radically changed. I have been described recently by co-workers as “extremely optimistic” – probably too optimistic in some situations. Now, I’ve realized that, instead of seeing a person walk down the street and thinking, “Oh my god, how could they have worn that?”, I find myself thinking, “I really like her/their/his _____________”. I think that this brighter, more optimistic way of thinking has really come to reflect on the rest of my states of being – i.e. emotional, mental, physical, etc. I wake up and look forward to the day, to the people I will see (and hopefully help), and the things I will do with and for others.

Obviously, this all can’t just stay in my mind because I want others to feel good about themselves and I want to have a good impact on their day, rather than denting it. I’ve been putting in a genuine effort to Be Nice, in whatever way that looks like. ImageActively giving back to others, telling strangers that they have great hair/smile/shirt, giving that friend an extra “like” on the picture (selfie – let’s be real)/status they posted earlier that day, leaving enough money for a coffee for the person next in line, and going through and donating those clothes that you do-not-wear-and-probably-do-not-fit-into just to make someone else’s day better will also make your day better.

                This sounds so simple, I totally know. It is elementary level in terms of new knowledge, but I (and you probably) still see people continuing their Negative Nancy/Debbie Downer ways. Make it a goal to engage those people, to make them smile or even laugh, and, believe me, you will feel great and hopefully they will too. I see this so frequently working in human/social services; people are upset and pissed off to be involved in services they do not think they need or want, and the least I can do in my job is to try to make my appointment with them a pleasure so they can look forward to the next one.

                So, my friends, be actively nice to others, so that you may brighten their day and they may brighten yours. 🙂

 

Thank you for reading!
Elizabeth M.