When I am instructing breath work, there is a phrase I often use on the exhale, “and on your next exhale, letting go of anything that is not serving you.” The exhale is a metaphor for releasing and surrendering the experiences and feelings that we no longer need. The planning we need to do is how we can actively and intentionally release our experiences and feelings when we can let them go.

Releasing is a process by which we make space and energy for the tools that are more effective. For example, when our friends say they have other plans or are already busy, we let the pattern go of feeling neglected or abandoned and practice a new pattern of feeling happy for them that they have full lives.  For example, when we feel big feelings about something that happens at work, we actively and intentionally let those feelings go rather than going home to pour a larger than usual glass of wine.

Exhaling happens naturally and automatically, releasing and surrendering does not.  We need to plan for how this best happens for us, what environment, what tools, what people best facilitate our letting go.  We need to complete this active and intentional planning process when we feel strong and secure, rested and rejuvenated, with energy and calm.  This planning process doesn’t happen easily when we are already experiencing stress or escalation. Yes, we need a trigger to activate our plan of letting go, but our plan of letting go needs to be in our back pocket and ready in waiting.

Currently, I am working on using music and my commute to exhale (let go). I am understanding that music speaks to my soul and I have designed playlists for certain experiences of letting go. The drive helps too.  I am also in the process of planning for moments of activation and trigger at work by looking ahead at my schedule and seeing what meetings and experiences are coming toward me that will be activating. When I find them, I build a small cushion around them to prepare, but more importantly to let go afterwards. 

This letting go (exhaling) process looks differently for all of us. We are rhythmic people. We need a pattern in order to feel better. Our brain is soothed by familiarity and sameness and can calm by practicing a letting go process that we have engaged in over time. Our brain is not built to let go of stressors or experience automatically but rather we need to engage in a thoughtful plan of release and surrender.

  1. This process of planning is never a waste of time. It is always valuable to prepare for the next stressor and how to let go of the experience in the most effective way.
  2. We will not always hit the mark.  Even when we plan, we may sometimes miss the target. In these situations grace and compassion are the most important self-care interventions.
  3. We are not built for letting go, so we need to create a plan to implement as releasing is not an automatic.
  4. Our brain loves and craves rhythm and routine and familiarity. Once we create a plan, we need to practice it over and over again to make it stick.

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