Company is coming over in a couple hours. The laundry sits nicely folded on the sofa; all I need to do is put it away, clean the bathroom, sweep & wet jet the kitchen floor, and light a few candles before I jump in the shower to get ready. The girls are sequestered in their playroom, being perfect little angels, of course.
I give myself a congratulatory pat on the back for having amazing kids and for being so darn productive today; I imagine my husband walking through the door in about an hour, groceries in tow, his eyes wide in amazement at the meticulous perfection surrounding him. I’ll put on my cute Anthropologie apron, I think to myself, just to contribute to the domesticity.
Then I round the corner into my living room and see the previously folded laundry strewn all over the floor, our little dog perched atop the pile. Before I can even take in the scene, I hear a crash, a scream, and a “MOMMA!!!” I run into the kitchen to discover a half-gallon of almond milk emptying its contents onto the cold, dirty tile while my two “angels” watch helplessly, the toddler still standing inside the fridge.
“Don’t move,” I speak in my firm, authoritative voice, “we need to clean the milk off your feet before you walk around.” Darting toward the hallway closet to grab a towel, I catch a glimpse of the playroom door out of my peripheral vision. No. Seriously?! A purple crayon masterpiece now adorns its surface, and behind the door a pink disaster zone of princess gear, baby dolls, and coloring books litters the room.
“M-o-m-m-a …” I spin around to find two little ragamuffins at my heels. “Momma, I told her to stay, but she wanted to follow you,” my concerned four-year-old explains, protectively holding her little sister’s hand. Behind them, a milky foot-print trail dots the living room carpet and the clean clothes they just traipsed over.
At this point, I have a few options:
A. Cancel the dinner plans and go hide in the bathroom until husband gets home.
B. Yell and be a generally bad mom.
C. Breathe Deeply.
Although A & B are definitely my instinctual response, I’m learning to practice C.
The fact is “Breathe Deeply” is not simply a cute quotation to put up on your wall as a reminder not to stress out too much. It’s science.
For years, The Doctor has suggested “Deep Breathing Exercises” to his patients who struggle with stress & anxiety (ahem, including me :-) I used to keep a “Relaxing Breath” handout taped to the white board in my classroom as a reminder during the hectic school day.
This breathing technique is borrowed from Dr. Weil (founder/director of the fellowship of Integrated Medicine, of which The Doctor is a graduate fellow). All of the following information is taken from Dr. Weil’s website here.
The 4-7-8 (or Relaxing Breath) Exercise
This exercise is utterly simple, takes almost no time, requires no equipment and can be done anywhere. Although you can do the exercise in any position, 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.
Note that you always inhale quietly through your nose and exhale audibly through your mouth. The tip of your tongue stays in position the whole time. Exhalation takes twice as long as inhalation. The absolute time you spend on each phase is not important; the ratio of 4:7:8 is important. If you have trouble holding your breath, speed the exercise up but keep to the ratio of 4:7:8 for the three phases. With practice you can slow it all down and get used to inhaling and exhaling more and more deeply.
This exercise is a natural tranquilizer for the nervous system. Unlike tranquilizing drugs, which are often effective when you first take them but then lose their power over time, this exercise is subtle when you first try it but gains in power with repetition and practice. Do it at least twice a day. You cannot do it too frequently. Do not do more than four breaths at one time for the first month of practice. Later, if you wish, you can extend it to eight breaths. If you feel a little lightheaded when you first breathe this way, do not be concerned; it will pass.
Once you develop this technique by practicing it every day, it will be a very useful tool that you will always have with you. Use it when anything upsetting happens—before you react! Use it whenever you are aware of internal tension. Use it to help you fall asleep. This exercise cannot be recommended too highly. Everyone can benefit from it.
To watch Dr. Weil demonstrate the "Relaxing Breath" exercise, click here.
Although my opening narrative is from a few weeks ago, the picture of the playroom is from this morning … so now I’m taking a few deep breaths before I put the toddler down for her nap and start cleaning. Again.
By the way, if you have any kind motherly advice on how to teach kids to keep their spaces clean (I’ve tried the “one toy at a time” thing & it doesn’t work for us), please feel free to leave a comment!
Stay tuned during our Spring Simplicity Series. Once we return from Spring Break, The Designer will advise on how to decorate with french linen … ooh la la!