Think about a situation you have been in lately where you feel like it took every last ounce of your willpower to stay cool, calm and collected.
Here is a classic example that happened a few years ago when I just couldn’t take it anymore. My kids seemed to be crying about e-ve-ry-thing! I tried to stay calm, but that calmness muscle in my body had been fatigued, and I lost my cool. I threw my son’s yet-to-be-eaten supper in the sink after he changed his mind twice about how he wanted it cut up, but then didn’t want it cut up. Let me just make it clear that I actually did throw it like a ball through the air into the sink. It felt really good at the time to be able to do that! Unfortunately, my son started crying again when I threw it in the sink. Whew, I feel like I need to take another deep breath just as I relive this memory. After I got the frustration out, I felt a lot better and decided then and there to be resilient and switch the mood in my mind, body, and spirit. It was at that pivotal moment that things shifted for me, and this did happen with intention. My time with my kids is precious, I don’t want to waste it by being frustrated and impatient. I was able to recognize this quickly, and use some tools I have learned as a wellness professional and parent to make the best of this situation.
If you are a parent, you can maybe relate to the example I just shared. We do things in the moment that we later feel guilty or disappointed about. The beauty of children is that they are forgiving. The beauty of children is that they can be a cause of frustration in one moment and in the next moment, they can be the reason we are no longer frustrated. For example, hearing my kids laugh at one another just a few minutes after the plate went through the air, made me smile and lightened the tension in my body.
I like to keep things very simple. Our world is complicated enough so in order to calm the chaos that can easily creep into our being, it is important to become empowered through techniques that seem do-able and easily accessible. This is where breath comes into play. I believe breath is one of the best medicines. Add a bit of gratitude along with intentional breath work, and wow, amazing shifts can happen in the mind, body, and spirit!
One of my favorite exercises to share with others is what I call the Gratitude Breath. Here is how you do it:
Sit or stand up nice and tall through your spine. Place your right hand on your heart and your left hand over your belly button. Breathe in slowly through your nose and let the air travel through your chest and all the way down into your belly so that your bottom hand in gently pushed out by your belly. Hold that breath for a second and then slowly release the breath so it takes slightly longer to breath it out than it did to breath it in. Continue this slow, deep breathing pattern for as long as you’d like. The hand that is on your heart reminds you to think of one thing that you feel grateful for at the moment. If it’s hard for you to come up with something, you can be grateful for a beating heart! Consider using this exercise once per day at a point of transition and savor how it makes you feel…perhaps more settled and happy!
Children teach adults many things, and adults teach children many things. In my work with helping adults to improve and maintain their overall well-being, my team and I strive to keep things simple, relevant, effective and fun. We have given out crayons, temporary tattoos, and rocks at our health and wellness fairs. We do activities that are playful and help summon up positive memories of either being a joyful, care-free child or being an adult who enjoys playing with children or grandchildren. These techniques help folks reduce stress, be more mindful and feel resilient.
One fun example that we did in the past in the hospital where I work was to go around to different nursing units and departments and give out calming jars (aka: meditation jars or relaxation jars.) See photo to understand how they look. When you shake the jars, they show an excellent illustration of how our mind, body and spirits can feel when life gets too chaotic and out of control. As we watch the glitter inside the jar, we begin to take calming deep breaths all the way down to a relaxed belly. As those breaths flow in and out, we watch the glitter begin to settle to the bottom of the jar. We notice the top of the jar beginning to become clear once again. We notice that our bodies are settling and our minds are becoming more clear. It takes a matter of two minutes to notice the shift from chaos and clutter to peace and clarity. These jars can be used by people of absolutely any age which is why I am sharing the recipe with you. You can give these as gifts to people to show your gratitude for them. A win-win for all!
Make your calming jar
Container of your choice with a tight fitting lid
Elmer’s clear glue
Step 1: Fill the container 20% full with glue. (use more glue if you’d like the glitter to settle more slowly)
Step 2: Fill the container to the 80% full level with very hot/slightly boiling water.
Step 3: Gently stir the water and glue together until they are blended evenly.
Step 4: Add 1 tsp. of fine glitter and slowly stir into the water and glue mixture. (1 tsp. works well in an 8 oz. container. Adjust according to container size)
Step 5: Add room temperature water until the container is almost full. Place cover on tightly, shake it up, and enjoy!
Hopefully these two examples, the gratitude breath and the calming jars, can be useful to you in the future to help you find peace and calm. Each of us already has a toolbox of strengths, talents, support systems and techniques that we can have access to during difficult situations, and my role as a wellness coach, personal trainer, group exercise instructor and leader is to help folks discover those tools and empower them to use them. Now, grab your tools, find your calm, and live on!
Join me for two minutes to feel what it’s like to put both of these tools into action.