I had exactly 1.25 hours to get to Target with two kids in tote to do my grocery shopping for the week.
I knew I was “violating” one of my golden rules – avoid running errands when you don’t have enough time, especially during the Christmas season.
My inner voice kept reminding me, “This is not a good idea!” I chose not to listen to it. I had decided being efficient was more important than listening to rationale. So, I made my Target run.
This one, small, and innocent decision cost me.
Listening to my inner voice should have been warning number one. Driving into the Target parking lot and seeing the amount of cars and carts scattered throughout should have been warning number two.
I continued to ignore rationale and went with efficient.
Starting in the produce isle, I immediately saw this women and her young child. It appeared she too was trying to be efficient. Together we strolled up and down the crowded isles (did I mention it was Saturday morning?!), gathering the items we needed.
All was fine until we hit the baking isle. It was then that the little boy had decided he had enough. Through his screams and flailing body, the little boy declared – very loudly – that he was done grocery shopping.
I couldn’t help but admire this mama and the level of patience she had with him. She calmly and quietly took him aside to try and sooth him. I can only imagine what she said to him, but from one mama to another, my guess would be she was asking him to stop and reassuring him she was almost done.
Patience, it appeared, was a gift of this mama. Preserving was yet another.
Bound and determined to finish what she started, this mama and her screaming little boy continued grocery shopping. Up and down the isle, this mama kept going, gathering the food she needed with one hand and holding the screaming little boy down with the other.
Every time our paths crossed, I tried to catch her eye to give her a little reassuring smile, letting her know I felt her pain. She never looked up. Do you blame her? I did the only thing I knew what to do, and that was to pray.
This mama managed to make it through the store. And so did I.
By the time I left, however, I could feel the cost this trip to Target was having on me.
While I was able to accomplish my errands, my body felt the effects of cortisol, the stress hormone, rushing through my veins.
Every part of me was ready to “fight or flee,” except I didn’t need to fight or flee. I was in fact living out our modern day stress response.
Knowing the effect stress can have on my body, I knew I had to move into recovery mode. So, I spent the rest of the day slowing down and breathing.
Dear friend, if you find yourself feeling the effects of stress, then I encourage you find time in your day to slow down and breathe. It is through breathe that we reduce our stress and find the peace we wish for.
Deep breathing is a popular stress management technique that you are probably familiar with. During times of stress, our breathing moves from a deep, diaphragmatic rhythm to a shallow, upper-chest rhythm.
It is in this shallow breathing that our heart rate increases and our stress levels become even more amplified. Doing deep breathing exercises will help counter this increased heart rate and stress level.
- Take a few minutes to get comfortable. Close your eyes and find your breathe.
- Inhale and exhale at your own pace.
- On your next breathe, bring your attention to your diaphragm. As you breathe, notice how your diaphragm and lungs expand with air.
- At the top of your breathe, slowly exhale, releasing the air from your lungs, allowing your diaphragm to go back to its normal resting state.
- Continue this rhythm, inhaling for a count of 4 and exhaling for a count of 6, until you begin to feel the stress melt away from you.
A second way to reduce stress is through a technique called Breathe Prayers. A dear friend recently introduced me to this technique and its one I had to share as it combines breathing for stress relief with biblical truth. Can it get any better than that?
To illustrate a Breathe Prayer, I am using key verses from Psalm 23 that I find calming and peaceful during my own times of stress.
As you start this exercise, you may need to keep your eyes open to read the passages. As you get familiar with them, I encourage you to close your eyes and ease through the verses through un unforced inhale-exhale rhythm.
Inhale: “The Lord is my Shepard.” Exhale: “I have all I need.”
Inhale: The Lord “lets me rest in green meadows.” Exhale: “He leads me besides peaceful streams.”
Inhale: The Lord “renews my strength.” Exhale: “He guides me along right paths.”
Inhale: “My cup overflows with blessings.” Exhale: Thank you God!
Dear friend, I know it may seem counter-intiutative to slow down and breathe when you are living life in the stressed out zone. But this is exactly what your body needs to reduce the cortisol running through your veins. And it is exactly what your mind and soul need to find peace and strength.
Looking back at my Target run, I realize that I need to always listen to my inner voice. If there is any advice I can offer during this crazy, chaotic season we are in, it is that you too need to listen to your own inner voice and find time in your days to slow down and simply breathe.
Praying you through,