Just Breathe…

We have begun a new school year and already we feel like we can’t slow down! One common thread among families of all ages seems to be the sense that things are moving fast, without much of a chance to create the calmness we are all craving.

The Hopkins Early Childhood staff discussed this issue at a recent professional development training – and worked together to process the strategies offered to combat the stress of modern child rearing. We would like to share one option, deceptively simple and yet so very hard to prioritize. This basic method of creating calm is by focusing on our breathing. Yoga practice, meditation, and relaxation techniques tend to incorporate this in their teachings. Adults often hear in many different circles that counting to 10 and just breathing will help to create calm during escalating situations. The common consensus is that by slowing down, focusing only on our breathe, and giving ourselves the smallest of breaks during the day, we can maintain a more relaxed attitude.

So why is it so hard to just breathe? We don’t value “nothingness” in an age of super-busy. We feel really silly paying attention to something as basic as breathing. We don’t feel like we have the time to give up to something that doesn’t produce a result (other than keeping us alive, of course!) However, our stress and the level of anxiety we feel just trying to get through our hectic days should be telling most of us that we need to refocus on finding our own calm – so we can help our families find their own calm center.

Tips for finding time to relax:

  • Give just 5 minutes a day to the practice of focusing on your breathe, break that up into two 3 minute segments, if that feels more manageable.
  • Let go of the idea that there has to be a big process. At a very basic level, your body and mind relax when you stop doing what you are doing, breathe slowly and fully, and focus on how that feels. There is nothing more you need to do.
  • Listen to your body. As you are breathing, notice how your shoulders feel, whether or not your thoughts slow down, if you start to lean back in your chair. If you feel signs of your body relaxing, you know that the time has been valuable – even if it feels like nothing is happening. The “nothing” is what is most important.
  • Let go of the feeling of silliness. You are doing something of value, and most people don’t even know you are doing it!
  • Share what you are doing with your children. The earlier we talk to our youngest family members about how we are finding ways to calm down and stay calm, the more natural it will be for them to use the strategies we are showing them. Young children learn best through imitation, and the methods we are using to meet stressful situations will surely be the methods that they also use. What a gift to show them a simple and useful way to cope with stress!

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