It was on the morning of November 11, 2000 that the word "breathe" popped into my head with an acronym (Be still, Release, Energize, Accept, Thank, Hear, Enrich). On that morning, I never could have imagined the impact "BREATHE" would have on me in the coming years. "BREATHE" has become a list of strategies that I try to use daily in some way. It is when I am feeling overwhelmed and anxious that I realize I have forgotten to use them. We are going to go through each of my BREATHE strategies and how I use each one.
Being still is all about learning how to relax and do something self-soothing such as mediation, reading scriptures, a hot bath, etc. What I do: Body Flex, Sit & breathe (literally be still), needle arts & movies, write, be outside, listen to music, chi machine.
The “Relaxation Response” is fight-or-flight’s polar opposite. It’s your body’s in born capacity to calm down. When your body experiences the relaxation response, there is a measureable decrease in heart rate, blood pressure, breathing rate, oxygen consumption, stress hormone levels and muscle tension. You can bring on [or elicit] the Relaxation Response when you practice anyone of a number of relaxation, yoga, visualization and other methods. . . . Eliciting the Relaxation Response interrupts your body’s physical and emotional response to stress, allowing it to return to a calm, relaxed state. . . .[I]t is worth noting that many activities you may think of as being relaxing, such as reading a book or watching tv, do not trigger the Relaxation Response. Be Happy Without Being Perfect, by Alice D. Domar, Ph.D.
I remember at Time Out for Women one of the speakers was talking about how at one time in her life the only moments she could have to herself was at night she would be outside looking up at the sky and talking to her Heavenly Father while her children pulled on the door knob inside the house as she held it closed. The story made us all laugh, but when your children are young, or you have a crazy busy life, it feels like you do have to physically demand some time to yourself. So do it, it doesn’t have to take very long. You will be amazed at how just a few minutes of Being Still can make you feel better.
Activity: “Be still and know that I am God.”
Release is all about letting go, letting go of past hurts (things from when you were a child, a few years ago or even from this morning) letting go of things that aren’t really yours to begin with (things that truly are someone else’s choice) and letting go of negative beliefs about yourself. You can release through journaling, therapy, tears, dancing, etc. What I do: let go of negative beliefs, remember “if you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll get what you’ve always got,” Interplay’s Exformation, therapy, let out my emotions.
Instead of a never-satisfied God shaking His finger at my selfishness, I felt God reaching out His hand to me, asking me to give Him everything – my children, my parents, my worries – and to trust that He would both give me back the portion that would be for my blessing and tenderly care for the rest. I realized that when we hold back from God, something in us will start to die. We do not just struggle to give Him our assets; we also struggle to give Him our deficits. His request that we give Him everything – holding nothing back – can be a great blessing. Forgiving Ourselves by Wendy Ulrich
Many times in the past I have heard and read that positive affirmations are a good thing to do, but I always felt like I was lying to myself. Then I read a book that my therapist had given me and it explained through that book I realized that the positive affirmation wasn’t the lie, the negative belief I had been telling myself was the lie.
Energize is all about taking care of yourself. You can energize yourself through exercise, eating right, hobbies, spend time with others, etc. What I do: exercise, eat right, shower & dress (get cute), create, be outside, clean & organize, play, shop, listen to music, talk to a friend.
When a woman is stressed, she often makes the mistake of giving more instead of focusing on herself to get what she needs. . . . [A] woman needs to balance her hectic day by taking time during her day to receive the support she needs. Giving can only stimulate optimal oxytocin levels when a woman feels she is also receiving love, support and affection as well. . . . Ultimately, women become stressed out when they do not take the time to do those things that will increase their oxytocin levels. To handle stress efficiently, a woman must integrate into her day a variety of oxytocin-producing experiences. Most women will experience some weight gain, a loss of energy and an overwhelmed feeling when their bodies are not producing enough oxytocin. . . . The real reason women are tired today is not because they have too much to do. It is because they are not producing enough oxytocin to compete with stress. Women focus on getting things done rather than generating more oxytocin to lower stress. They make the mistake of assuming that doing more will finally give them the opportunity to rest. . . . The idea that finishing everything on her to-do list will take away her stress and distress is an illusion. Instead, it is her stress that causes her to feel overwhelmed and exhausted. . . .Women’s brains are wired to be more verbal, and tending and be-friending is how women relax. By talking without solving any problems, a profound change occurs in just a few minutes.” Why Mars & Venus Collide by John Grey
I love the idea of the pensieve in the Harry Potter books. If you have read the books, you will recall that Professor Dumbledore taps his wand to his head and magically pulls out memories and thoughts and places them safely in the pensieve. Sometimes I feel like there is so much coming at me all day long every day that I feel completely overwhelmed and the thought of being able to pull some of that out of my head is very appealing. My therapist does something that she calls Interplay and in Interplay they have an exercise that is called “Exformation.” All day long we have “information” coming in to our bodies and minds, Exformation gives a way to get it all out. Recently I have decided that every household should have a punching bag as a safe and healthy way to “exform” anger. Tears are a form of “exforming” our sadness or happiness.
Accept is all about accepting what has happened and is happening in your life. You can practice acceptance through sayings like “it is what it is,” positive self talk, etc. What I do: verbally accept, find a way to make friends with a situation or be grateful for the experience, use the mantras, prayer.
The bad is real and has to be dealt with, accepted, improved and/or endured. . . . The good must be emphasized and embraced with every breath you take or you might be overrun by the lousy feelings from the bad. . . . The best way to handle life is not to agitate over what might be, but to enjoy what is and endeavor to be flexible and creative enough to take on life as it unpredictably rolls along. In Praise of Stay-at-Home Moms by Dr. Laura
Many years ago when I was talking to my cousin about my current challenges she said this to me: “you have to accept that what you are going through is the only way for you to learn what you need to know to progress spiritually and once you do that it takes the drama out of the situation.” I have relied on that mantra many times since in my life. Sometimes accepting things is very difficult and what my therapist is always saying to me is, “how can you make ‘friends’ with this situation?”
Activity: Babble/Make friends
Thank is all about gratitude in all things. You can show gratitude through a gratitude journal, prayer, thank you cards & letters, gifts, words, etc. What I do: prayer, gratitude book (smile blog), notice what makes me happy, expressing thanks for bad things too.
A grateful heart, then, comes through expressing gratitude to our Heavenly Father for His blessings and to those around us for all that they bring into our lives. This requires conscious effort—at least until we have truly learned and cultivated an attitude of gratitude. Often we feel grateful and intend to express our thanks but forget to do so or just don’t get around to it. Someone has said that 'feeling gratitude and not expressing it is like wrapping a present and not giving it.'” President Thomas S. Monson
I had been hearing about these “365-day projects” for awhile and they had intrigued me and I had wanted to do one, but wasn’t sure what I wanted to do for it. As most of you know the last few years I have been struggling with depression and so I decided that I wanted the project to be something that would help with that. I finally decided that what I really wanted was to see something each day that made me happy and to focus on that feeling of happiness. So I came up with a plan to show something that made me smile for 365 days. I don’t always get my picture posted right away on my blog, but I keep trying. Some days I really have a hard time finding something that made me smile, but I have found that I feel better as I look all day long for something to post on my blog for that day. If you are interested in checking out that blog it is: renaemcbarron365.blogspot.com.
Activity: Babble/I’m grateful for . . .
Hear is all about listening closely to your true self, your mind, spirit and body. You can hear yourself through journaling, trusting your own thoughts, paying attention to the messages that your body sends you, etc. What I do: When I hurt I stop to try and understand what my body is trying to tell me, don’t shove emotions, listen to them, listen for when I need to rest, notice when I feel emotions, meditate, listen to my dreams.
I believe that femininity is taking responsibility for our bodies, so that the body becomes the tangible expression of the spirit within. For those of us who have lived life in the head, this is a long, difficult and agonizing process, because in attempting to release our muscles, we also release the pent-up fear and rage and grief that has been buried there. . . . Within ourselves we find a stricken animal almost dead from starvation and mis-treatment. Because it has been punished so long, it acts at first like a wild neurotic creature that hasn’t known love. But gradually it becomes our friend, and because it understands the instincts better than we, it becomes our guide to a natural, spiritual way of life.” Addiction to Perfection by Marion Woodman
One day I missed a step going out to the garage and fell and really hurt my ankle. It took a really long time to heal. It didn’t help that a week later I did the exact same thing again. Then a week after that I fell off a chair. Several months later I fell down the stairs going down our deck. Not long after that I was working in the back yard and I was carrying a big rock and fell down some steps again. I was really concerned that I kept falling so one day when I was in a Cranial Sacral appointment I was telling the therapist about my concerns that my ankle was still causing me pain and that I kept falling. Now let me preface this by saying that my CS therapist has you focus on the certain area that she is working on and has you say the first thing that comes to mind. So this particular day she decided to work on my ankle and as she started she said, “ankle, why does Renae keep falling?” I started crying because the first thing that came to mind is this thought, “because she won’t rest unless she is hurt, so I make her fall so she will rest.” I cried because I knew this was true. I would push and push through pain to get a project done. I would ignore my need for food and rest just to finish my task. Even after some falls, I kept pushing through the pain, standing on one foot or sitting down to finish. I have since learned to do better than that, and if I do fall, I’m done, I have learned my lesson.
Activity: Babble/cheer-I heard my own needs …
Enrich is to live in the moment. You can enrich your life by feeling your feelings as you feel them, give yourself and others positive affirmations, live a balanced life and share what you learn with others. What I do: quit pushing, life is not “greener” on the other side, realizing joy is in the moment, accept time – it is now, let it radiate beyond me.
How do we nurture ourselves? Of all the blank spots we have this one is often the blankest. If we’ve never seen, touched, tasted or felt it, how could we know what nurturing is? Nurturing is an attitude toward ourselves – one of unconditional love and acceptance. I’m talking about loving ourselves so much and so hard the good stuff gets right into the core of us, then spills over into our lives and our relationships. I’m talking about loving ourselves no matter what happens or where we go. Beyond Co-Dependency by Melodie Beattie
When my son went off to college, my daughter and I went with him to help him get settled in. Shortly after we got back home, I was sharing one of my experiences with my therapist. It was becoming dusky on our first day there and we were at the beach. My daughter was next to me playing happily in the sand, my son was out playing in the ocean with his new dorm mate. As I sat there I felt an amazing openness and as if time were standing still. I could see some stars just beginning to come out and felt the ocean breeze in my face. It was an amazing moment. My therapist said, “can we give that moment a name?” I said sure, she said, “let’s call it joy.” I started to cry and I said, “is that what joy is?” You see, I had been struggling with understanding joy and happiness at that time in my life. The scripture, “men are that they might have joy” confused me greatly. I had gotten so unhappy that I could not even recognize it when I felt it. But now I know, I know that when I feel true joy, I feel peace, and openness and time stands still even just for a moment.
There are so many ways for us to relax, I am definitely not an expert and some of my chosen ways, may not be comfortable for you. The most important thing is for you to take some time for yourself, take some time to discover what makes you feel peaceful, relaxed, joyful and so on. I want to leave you with this quote:
But I want . . . to be at peace with myself . . . . What is the answer . . . perhaps a first step, is in simplification of life, in cutting out some of the distractions. But how? The solution for me, surely, is neither in total renunciation of the world, nor in total acceptance of it. I must find a balance somewhere, or an alternating rhythm between these two extremes; a swinging of the pendulum between solitude and communion, between retreat and return. Is this then what happens to woman? She wants perpetually to spill herself away in driblets to the thirsty, seldom being allowed the time, the quiet, the peace, to let the pitcher fill up to the brim. If it is woman's function to give, she must be replenished too. But how? Solitude, says the moonshell. Every person, especially every woman, should be alone some time during the year, some part of each week, and each day. Quiet time alone, contemplation, prayer, music a centering line of thought or reading, of study or work. It can be physical or intellectual or artistic, any creative life proceeding from oneself. It need not be an enormous project or a great work. But it should be something of one's own. What matters is that one be for a time inwardly attentive. Gifts From The Sea by Anne Morrow Lindbergh
I have a blog that I continue to write on to further explore my BREATE strategies if you would like to read more it is “L2Breathe.blogspot.com." Please take what I have there and what I have said today, make it your own and breathe, just breathe.