Speaking Jelinese and The Summer of ME is about slowing down and finding balance in this chaotic life. There are always so many things to do and take care of, we all get bogged down and exhausted. I think personally, I needed this summer to happen because of the spring my family just went through.
The Jelinek family had a really tough spring. It started with my grandfather passing away at the beginning of April. Then my nephew was in the hospital with some weird flu thing, then all three girls had the stomach flu, one after another. After that, my niece broke her femur and then we had to put Dodger down. He was our dog of 14 years, we got him when he was only 8 weeks old. Our first “baby” for sure. A constant roller coaster for 8 weeks. Oh and it was the end of the school year, so that was a really peaceful time too…..HA!!! I was drained and depleted and kept wondering what the next day would bring. Thankfully, I work at an amazing place with amazing people who supported me through all of this. But I relied heavily on two tactics or strategies during this time. Actually, I use these multiple times in a week, daily even. They changed my life, helped me regain control and I would like to share them with you.
Circle of Control
The first tactic that changed my life was given to me by my dear friend Monica. Actually, she gave me this pearl of wisdom about 10 years ago. I can’t believe it has been that long. I was finishing my masters, teaching full time and had an infant. At the time, it seemed as if the sky was falling every day. There was so much to do!! Hailey, the infant, was not always a great sleeper, so we would be up many times throughout the night. Working on little sleep is not something I do well. Plus, I tend to exaggerate and overwhelm myself by thinking about everything that might possibly need to be done in the next day to the next five years. Then I freak out!!
Monica gave me the “Circle of Control.” I am actually not even sure where she got it from. But in the middle of her classroom, right before I was about to freak out, she made me physically form a circle with my hands and take a breath. (The students were very confused.) As I did this, she told me you can only control what is in your circle, everything else, you must let go. How simple. I took a breath, instantly relaxed and felt better.
Circle of Control can be used in almost any situation. If there is drama going on with your kids, students or your own, you can ask them what they can control in the situation. If something is outside of their circle, they have to let it go. If you have a really long list of things to do, what can you control and accomplish right now. If something prevents you from accomplishing your task, you must let it go for right now. However, you must physically form a circle with your hands, think about if whatever is bothering you belongs inside or outside the circle and deal with it. Forming the circle helps connect your body and mind. I know it sounds silly but it works. I have passed Circle of Control on to lots of people; friends, colleagues and students. My students even make fun of me when I make my circle with my hands, but they know exactly what I am thinking at the time. Life changing…….
The second tactic takes less than a minute to accomplish and works for me every time now. I had to train myself a little bit, but if you do this correctly, there is a high probability it will help you calm down. It is called square breathing. I also learned this years ago at a Professional Development workshop led by our Student Assistance Counselor. The method is to inhale through your nose for four counts, hold it for four counts, and then exhale for four counts through your mouth. Then repeat this whole process three more times. Hence the square. Try it. Close your eyes, breath in for four, hold for four, exhale for four. Repeat.
How do you feel? Could you feel your body relax? It takes some practice and you really need to focus on just your counting. There are many times throughout the day when we need to slow down and breathe. Literally, I just did this sitting in my office on Friday, as Harper came in wearing her third swimsuit for the day and was not ready to leave for the lake yet. (Mind you, we had not even gone swimming, or been in the sprinkler or near any water all day. Why she had a swimsuit on in the first place is a mystery to me.) I also use square breathing to relax and put myself back to sleep during the middle of the night. When a child wakes up in the middle of the night, I usually hear them. Sometimes they come into my room, sometimes they don’t, but I hear them just the same. After I wake up, my mind is up, thinking about stuff. Sometimes, it thinks about the items on the to do list. Sometimes, it thinks about totally random stuff, like what I would do with the money, if I won the lottery. (I don’t even play the lottery.) But if I start this tactic and really focus on just my breathing and counting, I almost never make it through all four rounds.
Challenge time!! As I said, I use these strategies all of the time and it has helped to have a method to rely on when I am traveling down the freak out road. So the next time, you go down the path of freaking out or just needing to relax, try one of these methods. Then as always, let me know how they worked. Or if you have a method you use to focus or regain balance, let us hear it. I am not an expert so your tactics might work even better and you should share them with us.
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