Swing and A Miss: Chapter 4
Breathe. Breathe in, breathe out. Nope, slow it down. Breathe in, hold it, now breathe out slowly. Do it again. Good, keep going. Relax your shoulders. Keep your eyes on your focal point. Relax your jaw. Good. Keep breathing.
In tense situations, that is what I am telling myself. Yes, I am reminding myself to breathe. Research has shown the calming and centering effects breathing has. An article on Healthway stated, “Sitting with the breath, as it is, is a way to practice sitting through all sorts of discomfort in our lives.” And I think we can agree disappointment is definitely a discomfort in life. In fact, breathing is so essential there are apps to help you do so. They may be referred to as mindfulness or meditation apps, but really, it’s all about breathing, becoming present in the here and now.
In the days leading up to my resignation, I found myself practicing focused breathing techniques often. My heart rate was often elevated, and most days I suffered from pounding headaches. Side note: our bodies are really good at telling us when there is a problem. However, we have to start paying attention to the signals. I was in flight or fight mode for two weeks, and stress of that level, for days on end takes its toll.
There were moments I wanted to scream, or run, or maybe run screaming. But I was sure that reaction was not the best choice. Instead, I would gently tap myself on the leg while practicing focused breathing. The longer and slower the exhale, the better I felt. And tapping? That small act helped center me and bring me into the present. Rather than allowing my thoughts to run the gamut of emotions and “what ifs,” I was focused on the current moment. Only after that would I proceed in taking the next best step.
Choosing to center and calm ourselves also allows us to practice silence. Rather than spouting every thought in my head, I was able to tame my tongue. I did not unleash my anger or frustration on anyone. The last thing we want to do is add regret to our disappointment. Sadly, they often go hand in hand. We become disappointed, then do or say something we later regret. And then a bad situation becomes worse and now we have heaped a heavier load on our own shoulders by becoming too wrapped up in our own stress response.
Better Health claimed shallow, upper chest breathing is part of the typical stress response. However, the stress response can be reduced by consciously breathing using the diaphragm. Furthermore, abdominal breathing helps to control the nervous system and encourages the body to relax, bringing about a range of health benefits. Wow. Breathing is powerful, yet often overlooked in the heat of the moment.
What if your disappointment has you sad or angry? Will breathing help then too? Yes, yes it will. Those emotions all effect the nervous system and breathing helps control the nervous system. Whatever we are feeling, or thinking, breathing intentionally, consciously will benefit us.
As I walked down to my boss to resign, I tapped my leg as I walked, and focused on my breathing. My friend, Liz, shared this technique with me a few years ago, and I use it often. Don’t worry, it’s simple.
· Place both hands over your chest (if you’re able, or tap yourself on your leg).
· Inhale for two counts, your belly should expand.
· Hold for 8 counts.
· Exhale for 4 counts with your mouth open. Think of pushing out all the air.
· Bonus: envision pushing out all the negative emotions as you exhale.
· Take a few seconds then repeat for up to ten cycles.
You can vary the counts as you see fit. Go ahead, try it. I will wait here for you. Before you start, take note of how you are feeling. Now, breathe.
How did you do? How are you feeling? Do you notice a change in your physical posture? In your mindset? Are you feeling more relaxed?
I did it too and had to start over as I realized I was breathing from my chest, not my belly. But after a few cycles, I am feeling more focused, more at ease. And the day I resigned? I said nothing I would regret later. I did not flinch at the few passive aggressive comments directed at me. There was no war of flight or fight taking place. Instead, it was nothing more than the next best step I chose to take. As I told a friend about the conversation that took place, she became angry, and asked how I reacted. My response was simple, “I smiled. I thanked her for the opportunity to work here, and for reminding me what I am supposed to be doing.” While it was nice to have someone else express the feelings I experienced, I was thankful I chose to breathe, stay present, and show respect.
Disappointments have a way of casting our filters into the wind and leading us down unhelpful paths. Remember friend, we are better than that. We are people who will show honor and respect to others, whether deserved or not. We will not become doormats and allow ourselves to be abused, but we will not lash out and crumble in our disappointment. You and me? We are going to stay in the here and now. We are going to breathe deeply, fully, intentionally. And then, we are going to handle whatever life throws at us with our integrity intact. We will walk with our heads held high, free from regrets, “what ifs,” and “if onlys.” We are going to breathe.