I am Breathing In, I am Breathing Out: How to Cope When LIFE Feels Too Much
There I was, sitting on the floor of a bookshop in Oxford, England, trying desperately to just concentrate on my breathing.
A mantra was playing through my head with each inhale and exhale: “I am breathing in… I am breathing out… I am breathing in… I am breathing out…”
Something had triggered me that morning and my mood and emotions had been spiralling since.
Add being annoyed with myself into the mix too – I shouldn’t be allowing myself to be triggered by external forces in this way – I TEACH meditation and mindset techniques, for goodness sake!
This. Should. Not. Be. Happening.
But happening it was.
EVER FELT BULLIED?
Bullying has been a theme throughout my life. If I think back to those years of abuse I sometimes talk about – that was bullying. I was bullied in school. I was bulled in my first job. I felt bullied into trying to hide my sexuality for years. I was bullied and my career held on pause by one of the managers in a later job too.
Of course, I learned the lessons, mastered the tools I needed to remould my life – and my outlook – into a far more positive shape, and I excelled.
I really do believe that when we are able to look at the patterns in our life, to accept responsibility for all that we call into our world, we can find the lessons our soul needs, quest for what’s needed and turn things around.
That’s the beauty of saying ‘yes’ to everything we manifest in place of pointing the finger… ownership gives us dominion; it grants us the power to take back control and change our lives.
There’s another little belief I hold onto though. I believe that some of us (hell, maybe even all of us!) have overarching lessons – or life themes – that we come here to learn about. I believe that even when we’ve pretty much mastered that knowledge, the universe will send out little tests every now and then, just to make sure we’re staying on track and implementing all we’ve learned.
That’s where my feeling bullied came in that day.
Let me be clear on something: when I say I felt bullied, it doesn’t necessarily mean there was any real-time ‘bullying’ at play.
On this occasion, what was playing out was my internal reaction to an email from someone I’ve had issues with before. Sure, I’d argue there’s been some overly assertive, unkind and manipulative behaviour from that person in the past, but I’d stood my ground and dealt with those. Standing my ground when I felt so undermined was a huge challenge for me at the time but, I did it, we heard each other and, as far as was possible, we walked away from that meeting with mutual respect and understanding.
The email that triggered me wasn’t a bullying email. It was simply a request for some information. The real trigger wasn’t even the email – it was my reaction to it.
REACTIONS RULE – IF WE LET THEM
For whatever reason that day, I retreated into a victim mindset. Every time I thought about that missive, and the person behind it, I shrank back to that bullied schoolkid who used to pray the girl with the sharp tongue, even sharper slaps, and a gang of protectors in the year above us, wouldn’t be on the bus. I’d hold my breath every time we got to her bus stop and, if she wasn’t there, my whole body would relax.
That’s where I went that day. It was as if the bully had unexpectedly climbed onto the bus and knocked me out of my seat. And try as I might, I couldn’t quite shift the feeling.
That day in the bookshop was also my birthday. I was physically and emotionally frazzled. I hadn’t been sleeping well, I’d been supporting lots of people, I was worrying about my mother (who’d been quite poorly) and, that morning, I’d woken up crying.
Have you ever done that? Opened your eyes after a dream, with tears streaming, and no real understanding of what they’re about? That was me on my birthday this year.
It’s fair to say that I didn’t start that day on the best footing, so maybe the exhaustion I was feeling added to the mindset that left me off balance.
The ‘bully’ email had arrived while we were in the car, on the way to Oxford – a day off and a birthday day out with my wife. I shouldn’t have even been checking my emails that day. I should have left my phone at home.
Ping. Ping. Ping. I should have turned the alerts off as well!
All those birthday messages on Facebook and LinkedIn should have left me feeling happy but, on that day, I just felt more and more under pressure to reply to each one. Why couldn’t I have just posted a ‘thanks to all’ message at the end of the day?
Feeling stressed, I turned off my phone and tried to change my state into a more positive one.
My wife and I wandered the streets, gazed at the beautiful architecture, window shopped and stopped for far too many coffees but, every time I paused, that bloody email popped back up, front and centre.
MOUNTAINS FROM MOLEHILLS?
I knew I was blowing it all out of proportion, but I honestly felt as though I was right at the end of my tether.
Which is how I came to be in that book shop – sandwiched between the mind, body, spirit and self-help sections – sitting on the floor and blindly reaching for wisdom between the pages that just might bring me some peace.
Except they didn’t. My head was beginning to ‘swim’. I don’t have panic attacks, but I feared I might be on the edge of one. Was this what they felt like?
I slowed my breathing. Felt unshed tears pricking at my eyes. I squished myself into a corner and tried to make myself as small as I possibly could.
And that’s when I remembered…
‘You don’t need the books, Taz. You have all the tools within you. You’re feeling frayed because you haven’t been using them! Girl, you need to catch back up with yourself and create some breathing room in your life.’
So, there I sat. “I am breathing in… I am breathing out… I am breathing in… I am breathing out…” until I calmed enough to gather myself, stand back up and start pulling my power back.
Those tears did come. When my wife and I sat in our last coffee shop of the day, after I’d called my mum to check in on her, the tears just started to fall. They were a bit like the ones I’d woken up with that day – I knew my cheeks were wet, but I didn’t entirely understand why, or what they were about. I suspect they were a release valve, as I did feel a little better afterwards.
USE YOUR TOOLS
I’m sharing this with you because we need to remember that tools only work when we use them – and when it comes to self help and mindset, we need to be using those tools regularly to keep in balance, not just when we hit a stone in the road. It’s a bit like boiling water on a stove… if we turn off the heat source, the liquid will go cold. We need to keep a little heat under ourselves every day – not to reach boiling point, but to at least keep us simmering.
There’s a wonderful Zig Ziglar quote: “People often say that motivation doesn’t last. Well, neither does bathing – that’s why we recommend it daily.” I think he was saying pretty much the same thing.
I ended up a hot mess because I hadn’t been giving myself the attention I needed – I hadn’t been meditating, I’d stopped journaling, doing my morning routine, I hadn’t been getting outdoors nearly enough and I’d been shovelling crappy fast food because I’d been so busy. It’s no wonder I felt worn down – it was like trying to drive a car for thousands of miles without refuelling.
Of course, that’s not to say that the same challenges wouldn’t have hit but, even if we’d thrown a dose of hormones or mood-affecting moon phases into the mix, I bet I wouldn’t have struggled quite so much if I’d been more on top of my self-care.
If I’d been resting more, eating more healthily, meditating, exercising more, realigning myself, the tears might still have come, but I would have felt far more able to deal with all life threw my way. I might have been able to catch all those curveballs and learn from them, instead of just feeling out of control and pelted!
WHAT ABOUT YOU?
What are YOU doing to take care of yourself on a regular basis?
Do you have a routine to help keep your mindset positive and your future feeling full of optimism? Do you have a way of letting those stresses and strains of every day life go, or are they clogging up your system?
Maybe now this is your sign to check in and ask yourself: “What’s needed?”
Until next time,