Project Louise: When The Best Thing To Do Is … Nothing

Stress can get in the way of doing the right thing. But stopping to breathe can help. (skyseeker via flickr)

Stress can get in the way of doing the right thing. But stopping to breathe can help. (skyseeker via flickr)

By Louise Kennedy
Guest contributor

Some days, all you can do is keep breathing. At least that’s what it feels like this week.

Both my work and home lives chose this particular moment to ratchet up the pressure by about 100 percent; I had some completely unbreakable deadlines, with a ton of work to be done in order to meet them. The professional ones I’ve (mostly) met, and the home-front ones I’m still working on, but so far things are more or less under control.

Meanwhile, the Project Louise commitments – you know, exercising three days a week; eating well at least five days a week; learning to love, trust and respect myself all the time – well, something had to give. And, as seems to be my lifelong pattern, when I have to choose between my obligations to others and my obligations to myself, it’s Louise who has to give.

I confess there’s a big part of me that considers this the right way to live. Selfishness is one of the sins I find hardest to forgive in others, so it’s also one I strive hardest to avoid myself. But I do know – and coach Allison Rimm keeps reminding me – that there’s a difference between selfishness and self-care.

Still, under stress, when there are just too many things screaming for immediate attention, the screams I ignore are the ones from myself. So I stay at my desk instead of going for a walk – or even taking a half-hour break for a healthy lunch – and I tell myself I’m too busy to stop and eat, and then I’m starving so I eat whatever’s in front of me, and then I feel crummy so I don’t feel like exercising even if I could find the time, and then I’m mad at myself so I reach for the chips …

In short, all I really managed to do this week is breathe. Which sounds like nothing, right? But what I mean is that, at some of the worst moments, I did make myself pause and focus on my breath. Just for a minute or two. Just breathe, just clear my mind and aim to think of nothing but in … out … in … breathe … breathe … breathe.

And you know what? That was better than nothing. For a few minutes, a few times a day, I was able to get away from all the things screaming at me, and I was able to just be. And it helped. I got through the week. And now I’m ready to get back on the bike – literally and figuratively – and get moving.

But first I’m going to have lunch.

Readers, do you have times when you just can’t do anything but stay afloat? And what do you do to help yourself get through stressful periods? Share your tips in the comments.

 

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