When life gets stressful, when my home is chaotic, when everyone seems to be needing something different from me, my body gets tense and I forget to breathe. Has this happened to you? Our homes can feel like a hurricane. The storms can be so intense and last so very long. But, I just keep going. I keep saying yes, I keep moving, I keep taking care of others, I keep absorbing the trauma from those around me and the toxins start to build up in my soul. I simply forget to exhale.
I carry tension in my neck. It shows up as headaches or pain in my upper back and neck. When that starts to creep up I know I'm not in balance, I know I need to do something to take care of myself. I know I need to breathe.
Do you every forget to breathe? Do you seem to be holding your breath? Afraid of what is coming next? There is just seems to be too much going on. It feels like you are too important in the lives of those close to you that there just isn't time to breathe? I have been there. I have kept holding onto my inhale longer than what is healthy for my body and soul.
Trauma parenting of kids from hard places is a marathon, not a sprint. If we want to be in this race for the full distance, if we want to finish well, it is essential to create both short term and long term strategies to help us breathe.
I once heard someone describe life as seasons of inhale and exhale. There are seasons in our home when kids are moving in, life is busy and stressful and we are inhaling, filling up. For some of us November and December are seasons of filling up. The days are getting shorter, school expectations are getting harder, the grey skies make us feel more depressed, the upcoming holidays have us out shopping and planning and anticipating. It is not bad to have seasons of inhale. We need them just as much as we need to breathe in. When life is busy we can get a lot done and really make a difference in our homes and in the world. The problem is when we forget to exhale.
Try it right now, take a deep breathe in, and just keep breathing in, keep going. See how long you can keep breathing in. Not too long. The inhale is part of a balanced life, but it cannot be done for too long without an exhale. If we just continue to fill our lungs and don't take the time to exhale our bodies will spasm. The same is true for our lives. If all day long your life is getting more and more full. You are more and more busy. It is unsustainable. You will spasm and your soul will collapse.
The exhale is that essential part of our existence where we empty ourselves and rest. We exhale the toxic carbon dioxide which helps our organs function properly. We have toxins in our home & soul and the exhale is essential for us to continue to be the kind of people we want to be.
Before becoming parents we had an image of the kind of mom or dad we would be. We imagined how patient and playful we would be. And then we met our kids and life got a whole lot harder. While our expectations may not have been realistic, we can get closer to that image each time we slow down and exhale.
After each season of inhale we simply must exhale in order to stay conscious. If you know you are in a season of inhale, I would encourage you to look ahead and plan for your next exhale. No matter how stormy your home may be... What can you do to keep your life in balance?
Some of you now are ready to close out this blog. You are saying,
There is no season of exhale!
It's just all stress, tension and inhale all the time!
My life is one, big, never ending storm!
You might be right. Life might be really full right now. Full of meetings and meltdowns. Full of cleaning up emotional and physical messes. I have been there and noticed that some of my seasons of inhale have been very long. Parenting kids from hard places is so very hard. But I have to be honest with you. When I get caught up in that thinking and feel like there is no way out... When I live from crisis to crisis, taking care of others and forgetting to breath, I have also begun to see myself start to fall apart. When I live like this I become more tense in the way I treat my children, I become stressed with the grocery store clerks, I gain weight, I have sleep issues and I no longer enjoy the journey I have chosen. That is not the life I have been called to live, that is not the life I dreamed of when I started on this journey, and by planning for moments of exhale I can significantly decrease these problems from my life.
If you are a foster / adoptive parent you know how to inhale. You know how to fill your home and life. That isn't the issue. But you may need to be reminded to exhale. You may need to plan ahead. Ideally an exhale is a long sustained part of breathing. Ideally, to bring down our blood pressure it is longer than the inhale. However, that isn't realistic for many of us. So what you might need to do is figure out what is realistic for your situation. Maybe you are single, maybe you don't have a lot of support, maybe your children have really complex issues requiring all of you. So maybe part of your plan for balance is to take a moment and figure out one way you can exhale today a little more than last week.
Here are some big & simple ideas:
If you are a foster parent, you may need to have a season of saying no to placements. This can feel really bad. We went into this to help and saying no when our life mantra is to say yes can feel wrong. It can be awkward to explain to friends and family. But you may just need a break. Consider a short period of time to exhale between placements. Saying no in November will help you continue to say yes for many years to come. How good are you with establishing boundaries? When was the last time you said no? No to a friend? No to your caseworker?
Consider using friends or family as respite for your foster / adopted children. While it may not be the perfect situation, sometimes having someone else watch the children for a night or two might be what you need to exhale. I have been guilty of believing this wasn't an option for me. I have thought, my kids needs are just too complex so I don't want to ask for respite. I have thought I'm the best person to care for my kids and I am the one they need... all ... the... time. But this isn't true. It is difficult to find friends who can parent our children the way we do, but releasing some of this control and choosing to have some time to exhale may be what you need to get back on your game of attachment parenting next week.
Take it one moment at a time. Maybe those first two bullet points are not going to happen for you in the next couple months. There are not just seasons of inhale and exhale, but moments. In each moment, be mindful of what is happening in your soul. Are your rushing around, inhaling and filling your life in this moment? Then, can you find a moment later on to exhale? While you are making your coffee, while you are walking through the parking lot to the grocery store, while you are in the bathroom sitting on the toilet? Where are the moments you can slow down and concentrate on a nice, slow exhale? I have a list of 21 simple, realistic, inexpensive exhale ideas in two previous posts you can check out here: Part 1 and Part 2.
What kind of a season are you in?
How are you walking through the storm?
Do you have a plan to maintain balance?
If you need help balancing your inhale & exhale it might be time to schedule a one hour, online coaching session. We can talk through your current season of life and create a realistic place that will help you exhale. Let's chat, firstname.lastname@example.org