Through my travel and work in the last few weeks, I’m hearing some version of the same story again and again: “There is so much going on that I don’t know where to start or how to keep up. I’m having difficulty managing it all. And more keeps coming.”

What do you do when your plate is full, your time is maxed out, your bandwidth is completely spent, and yet more keeps coming?

I don’t have a magic solution, yet I’ve found that pausing to notice what is happening in my body and with my breath can take me out of “overwhelm” mode and back into presence. I become more present to the moment, and at the same time, I become more aware of the presence that I am bringing to that moment. I become more aware of how I am showing up. Simply stopping everything and taking a few deep and full breaths calms my whole system, eases my tension, and softens my edges, often in less than a minute. This practice usually helps me see new possibilities as well.

In a recent monthly call for the graduates of our Transformational Presence Leadership and Coach Training program, I shared a very simple yet powerful exercise. The call participants found it helpful and spoke of new awareness and insights. Perhaps you will find it helpful as well.

The exercise takes less than five minutes. Yet even just these few minutes can help you relax and re-focus. As a bonus, you may also discover a new perspective or clearer understanding about what is happening and find a next step that feels right for you.

There is no special preparation for the exercise. You can choose to sit or stand. You can even do the exercise while walking. You can do it anytime and anywhere.

Begin by taking slow, gentle, deep, and full breaths. Let your breath find its own natural rhythm and flow. Focus your attention on your body, and notice which parts of your body are open to accept the breath and which parts resist or feel closed off. You don’t need to analyze why anything is as it is. Just breathe. Keep it simple – just deep and full breaths.

As you become aware of an area in your body that is tense, resistant, or closed, rather than focusing on the tightness or resistance, focus on the closest part of your body that feels open. Focus on the open place, and then, as you continue breathing slowly and gently, let the open space stretch into the closed space. Let your breath, the energy, and the open space do the work for you.

Take your time, and then continue this process with any other area of your body that feels resistant or closed to the breath. Be gentle and compassionate with yourself and let the breath open, relax, and soothe the closed spaces. Again, take your time.

You can also use this exercise to release tension and open breathing space within situations or circumstances in your life or work.

Consider a situation or circumstance that is challenging or causing you concern. As you’ve already done, take slow, gentle, deep, and full breaths. Imagine that you are actually breathing into the situation itself. Let your breath begin to open up space within whatever is happening. Don’t worry about how – just let your breath do the work. As the energy or feeling begins to soften and open, keep breathing into the open space that is showing up. Let your breath gently and compassionately stretch or expand that open space. Give the situation space to breathe and notice what happens.

~ ~ ~

Your situation or circumstance is probably still with you, yet your relationship to it or your perspective about it may have shifted. At the very least, you have taken a few minutes to take care of yourself, to relax and release some tension, and give yourself a bit of rest.

Make it a practice to pause several times a day, even if just for two minutes, and do this simple exercise. Then after a week, notice what is shifting in your presence and how you are engaging with the situations and circumstances of your life and work.


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