Just Breathe: How to Keep the Weight of Life from Burdening your Spirit

Just Breathe: How to Keep the Weight of Life from Burdening your Spirit

laurawatkinsyogaheadshotMany thanks to Laura Watkins for today’s post! Laura Watkins is a marketing manager who moonlights as a yoga instructor. She has developed programs for individuals with multiple sclerosis and spinal cord injury and has taught individuals from a wide range of demographics. She is also the former editor for the National Center on Health, Physical Activity and Disability and a certified personal trainer through the American Council on Exercise. Laura is passionate about helping others lead healthy, active and independent lifestyles. She is currently training for her first half-marathon since giving birth to her daughter Ava Grace.


The other day I was listening to a friend share how her life has gotten so stressful that she’s had to increase her anxiety medication so that she can focus on her demanding job. Although she is going to therapy, has hired a maid and is exercising consistently, she’s completely overwhelmed. This woman is smart and successful. She has a darling family and a beautiful home in a nice part of town, and yet she can barely get through her day without having a stress-induced meltdown.

Most of us can identify with at least some part of her story. Those of us who are working mothers often have double the stress. We leave the office feeling inadequate and beyond capacity only to come home to a messy house where we have to scramble dinner together then offer a few measly hours of attention to our children and husband. We go to bed and start the grind all over again. The pace is crazy, yes, but we don’t know how to slow down and we’re afraid if we do, we’ll get run over. And yet, there’s got to be a better way.

In her book, The Best Yes, Lysa Terkeurst said, “A woman who lives with the stress of an overwhelmed schedule will often ache with the sadness of an underwhelmed soul.”

Are you like me and lie in bed at night mulling over the events of the day, thinking how you could have handled that confrontation better or ticking off your to-do list for the following day? The past couple of nights, instead of being suffocated by my familiar blanket of insufficiencies, I’ve closed my eyes, taken a deep breath and thought of a few reasons to be thankful. I’ve found comfort in repeating the Serenity Prayer: 

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference.”

I cannot imagine many more stressful positions than serving as President of the United States. Our 26th President, Theodore Roosevelt, was born with a ‘weak heart’ and told by his doctors to keep his stress levels as low as possible. He lost both his wife and mother on the same day. He became President at 42 years old following the assassination of William McKinley. He lost his vision in one eye during a boxing match and was shot in the chest while delivering a speech, finishing it before going to the hospital!

Excuse the history lesson, but this man’s life is just too good not to share.

Roosevelt supported women’s right to vote as well as desegregation. He was famous for his exploits in the Spanish-American War and won the Nobel Peace Prize for his role in ending the Russo-Japanese War.

Yet, throughout his life, he was known for his boisterous, high-energy, joyful personality. In spite of his circumstances or the weight of the leadership role he held, his spirit was undaunted. In reading about his life over the years, I’ve discovered some clues as to how he kept the weight of life from burdening his peace:

The man had passion. He was passionate about life, about his country, about travel, and about land conservation.

What are you passionate about? Do you love to run? Do you love to write? Do you love fitness or sewing or calligraphy? When you feel drained by the stresses of work and life, do what fills you up! If you don’t know what you enjoy doing or you haven’t had time to cultivate your interests, take an hour each Saturday to try out a cooking or yoga class.

He played. Roosevelt was known for having a menagerie in the White House and romping around the White House with his six children.

I happen to believe we’re never too old to play. Let’s give ourselves permission to be silly this weekend. Crank up your Pandora station and dance around the room. Belly laugh. Tell a silly story about your adolescence to your husband.

He wasn’t concerned with what others thought of him.

“Those who constantly try to impress others will quickly depress themselves,” said Terkeurst.

Ever find yourself paralyzed about what some random person thinks about you? The individual doesn’t know you and certainly doesn’t know your heart and yet, you’ve given them the authority to steal your joy by their judgment. How stupid. I truly think our stress levels would decrease tenfold if we would stop living by everyone else’s expectations and simply as Teddy himself said, “Do what you can, with what you have, where you are.”

I’ll close with an exercise that I usually begin with my yoga class:

Find yourself in a comfortable seated position on the floor with your legs crossed. Sitting up nice and tall, draw your belly in and your shoulders back and down. Place your hands gently on the tops of your legs and close your eyes (well, read through the rest of the instructions before you close your eyes silly J). Breathe. Just breathe, drawing air in deeply through your belly first then all the way up feeling your rib cage expand, and your chest rise. Hold the breath for three seconds. Then, open your mouth and exhale all the stale air out. Repeat 10 times taken in the fresh, clean oxygen each time with your inhalation and releasing all that is not useful or harmful to you with your exhalation. Open your eyes, smile and notice how much better you feel. Now, you’re ready to begin your practice.



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