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Spring Pressures…and Breathing


What do you do when outside pressures become inside pressures?

In my part of Ontario, spring is creeping in, and I notice changes like the snow is (almost) gone, mud and puddles are everywhere, buds are erupting on trees, there are longer moments of daylight, plus, toques, mittens and snowboots have been put away (and brought back out, and put away…).

Spring is ever-evolving.

With the onset of spring, I have this sense of running downhill to summer. SO much is happening. It seems like a race to get things done, register and join things, make things happen or be a certain way.


Pressure from outside sources becoming compounded or worsened or intensified by the thinking inside my head.

Outside Pressures

Outside pressures are usually those expectations of what to do or have, always “keeping it together” without losing my cool, and it may include: having an uncluttered, minimalistic and clean home, exercising every day, drinking a certain amount of water, buying, cooking, eating and cleaning up nutritious food, having a certain physique, reading every day, being on parent council at school, sleeping 8 hours, taking kids to an array of experiences and activities, gardening for enjoyment and relaxation, earning a great income, watching the newest movie, remaining up to date on world affairs, stretching before moving, having regular dental, vision and medical appointments to maintain health, socializing with friends, being frugal/penny pinching, meditating for an hour, volunteering in the school and community, taking a college or university course or skills-trade for life-long learning, donating money to worthwhile charities, meeting with a therapist, picking up litter in the community, attending live theatre or concerts, doing puzzles, sudoku or memory brain games, making lunches, paying it forward at a coffee drive-thru, nurturing my spiritual side, buying and wearing certain clothing, being in a book club, taking an art class, spending time with grandparents and cousins, doing multiple loads of laundry, buying the perfect gifts for the special someone, investing money/buying insurance, having pets for calming and comfort, working out at a gym, doing yoga or tai chi or qi gong every day, and spending time outdoors in nature.


And maybe that’s a drop in the bucket compared to your list of outside pressures.

How about you?

What is happening in your life right now, making demands on you, your time and your ability to cope with the mounting pressures? When do you notice that it bothers you the most? What part really irritates you, finds your weak spot and brings you down?

Each of the outside pressures I mentioned above has value. It’s the abundance or tackling it all at once which immobilizes me. A strategy I’m now embracing, is to see all of these possibilities as a smorgasbord of choices; one way of reducing the grasp they have on my inside pressure, the mind.

When Outside Pressures Become Inside Pressures

When the outside pressures take up residence inside my mind, the inside pressures manifest as worry, regret, fear, rumination, and perhaps judgment or poor self-talk.

Noticing how an outside pressure becomes a bigger pressure or stress inside my mind has been a valuable first step of releasing that pressure.

I invite you now to become curious about the outside pressures you have and explore any connections arising in the mind with inside pressures. Which outside pressure is influencing an inside pressure?

Seeing this connection assists with releasing the hold or disintegrating the hold that outside pressures have on the mind.

Once you are able to see the connection, bring in a practice which will further distance the outside pressure from attaching to and squatting in the mind.

 Big exhale.

Actually, that’s it. The breath…or focusing on breathing.


A way to minimize or get rid of the inside pressures.

Intentional Breathing

Before you stop reading, thinking that this is hokey crap, consider that successful athletes, musicians, actors, effective business leaders, those in high risk careers, have all been taught how to utilize the breath most efficiently to either increase their focus (shut out the distractions) or bring a sense of calm, all to enhance their ability to be at the top of their game, to be present to achieve the best possible performance.

One of the ways to handle tough moments more skillfully, frustrating ones, moments when you’d like to really like to let it all go, is by learning how to use the breath.

In this intention to make change, to add a positive practice, to bring more calm and enhance an ability to cope with the pressures, evidence from research is showing more people have success to implement change by building on an existing habit. Habit stacking.

What activity do you do regularly, which doesn’t require a lot of concentration, where you could add breathing practicing?

For me, I’ve chosen when I’m placing the key in the ignition of the car, putting toothpaste on the toothbrush, and turning the kettle on to make tea as times when I will pause and intentionally focus on breathing in, and breathing out, slowing and deepening the breath for about 3 or 4 minutes each time. It’s a piggyback of actions, stacking one habit within another.

Now that you’ve determined a time to add or stack on a breathing practice, let’s try a breathing practice right now, to find an ease with this new practice.

Breathing in slowly, notice the stomach rising. The inhaled air fills the lungs which engages the diaphragm muscle under the lungs to elongate and lower, causing the sides of your body, lower back and stomach to bulge out.

Slight pause before changing to exhaling.

Breathing out slowly, noticing the sides, back and stomach lowering, and maybe using lower abdomen muscles to draw the belly button in, as if it’s trying to touch the spine.

Slight pause before inhaling again.

Repeat: breathing in slowly, pausing, breathing out slowly, pausing.

Repeat: breathing in slowly, pausing, breathing out slowly, pausing.

Repeat: breathing in slowly, pausing, breathing out slowly, pausing.

When finished, noticing any shifts within your body. What sensations are present now?

So, why do this breathing practice? What does it accomplish?

From birth as we interact with our babies, often we encourage them to mimic our actions, by smiling, sticking out tongues, clapping and other developmental skill building movements. Even when we aren’t intending to model to our children, we do; sometimes we’re influencing them in positive ways and sometimes in not so positive ways.

Being a parent, or caregiver of children increases not only the load of things to do, but places you front and centre for impressionable growing humans to be influenced in how to cope with the stress and pressures that life delivers.

So, in addition to breathing practices assisting yourself with having greater ability to be with the up and down pressures of life as the outside pressures influence the inside pressures, you are role modelling for your children how to be with challenging, demanding and overwhelming times in life.

The same way we want to provide a positive role model for skill building, being a model of safe and respectful ways to modulate our building emotions is helpful for our children in having greater understanding and appreciation of emotions.

Gaining awareness that there may be situations in life which we don’t like, and then, noticing how we can’t control the situation, we can be with the situation we don’t like, and be able to regulate our emotions throughout the experience.

Breathing is a key practice for accomplishing this ability.

Being able to breathe through challenging pressures can be life changing, extending the quality of life, as well as enhancing the relationships with others.

Breathing in, I know I am breathing in.

Breathing out, I know I am breathing out.