Breathing In and Out: One Idea for Avoiding Burn Out

If you’ve ever been around someone who’s unmotivated, you’ll know that one issue is lack of energy. Unmotivated people just can’t do things that might seem very simple or easy to the rest of us – even small chores can be overwhelming for them.

If you’ve been around someone who’s always busy, you’ll know that one issue is their inability to truly stop. These people tend to walk fast, they talk fast, they eat fast – and for others just being in their presence can be overwhelming. 

Neither of these extremes is a healthy place to be: each can be both a sign of stress and a cause of stress. And we all know, while some stress is inevitable, stimulating and motivating, excessive or constant stress isn’t any good for us.

When we came to the Steiner (Waldorf) community, I was introduced to a recipe for living well, which I love – the concept of breathing-in, and breathing-out. We need busy times: breathing-in. We need quiet, restful times: breathing-out. Steiner was very big on having a rhythm of both for a healthy life: daily, weekly, in keeping with the seasons and annually.

As someone who tends to swing dramatically between the two extremes (I suffer from Seasonally Affected Depression and have two very different levels of energy depending on the amount of sunlight around) I’ve been working on some ways to find balance. At the moment my daily breathing out times are: five to 10 minutes outside first thing in the morning – my blogging buddy @ Yours Ambiguously, E.E. Talisman tells me mornings are a good time to pray, so I spend the time in silence giving thanks (besides being outside first thing helps my brain use natural light to turn off the sleep chemical melatonin and turn on the happy chemical serotonin – they work like a see-saw); story time with the Owl after lunch; and story time and snuggles in bed with all the boys until they’re  asleep. I just tried including  a small break this morning while the Butterfly was asleep. Compulsory sit and do nothing at all time: today 3 minutes – which is surprisingly difficult to do – with the intention of building this up slowly to around 10 minutes. Overall,  I’m happy with this as a template for daily breathing-out.

We’re not as busy as many other people during the week, but I’m still struggling to get good weekly breathing-out times. We have ‘Fend for yourself Friday’ and everyone has to get their own evening meal…OK, not the Butterfly, but everyone else. I am also meant to have one morning a weekend to sleep-in or just stay in bed, but our kids are the kind who show their sense of detachment from me and struggle to leave me alone – and *I’m* hardly likely to resort to cartoons (LOL).  After the Easter holidays the Butterfly is going to start having regular mornings with each of his grandmothers (love grandmothers) and I’ll go swimming – which isn’t proper breathing-out time, except my brain will be free. And then I draw a blank.

So, any suggestions? How do you breath-out during the week?

For a great post on breathing. Go here.

(This is officially how I help put food on the table. If you’ve found this article useful, please feel free to use the Koha button just above my blogroll. Even the smallest amount is appreciated. 🙂 )


About Karyn @ kloppenmum

kloppenmum is me, Karyn Van Der Zwet, mother of three and ex-teacher. I'm part of a revolution in parenting, with the aim to raise mature (not sophisticated) and self-assured children. I also know some stuff about adults. I have also had articles printed in The Journal for The British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (Children and Young People) and the US parenting magazine, Pathways to Family Wellness, as well I regularly write for World Moms Blog (named as one of the Forbes 100 most useful blogs for women 2012 &2013). You can follow me on facebook (kloppenmum) pinterest (Karyn at Kloppenmum) and twitter (@kloppenmum). I'm also vaguely on LinkedIn (Karyn Van Der Zwet). Thanks to Joe (Mr Hare) for taking the photo. Cheers, son: xxxx.
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34 Responses to Breathing In and Out: One Idea for Avoiding Burn Out

  1. Sitting still for 3 solid minutes…impressive. It may sound easy to some, but I don’t think it could be at all. Breathe out…for me would be laughing really loudly. Allowing time to just laugh…can put things all in perspective. : )

    • kloppenmum says:

      Hi there, and welcome,
      Yes, a good belly laugh is a great way to relax for me too. It always impresses me how easily the kids break into belly-laughs. And three minutes of sitting still and doing n-o-t-h-i-n-g was a bit of a challenge for me, hopefully it’ll be easier tomorrow!

  2. HIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIII Karen…(that long Hi was my breathing OUT for the week!!!!!! lololol)…

    My Mother in law is the unmotivated person you just mentioned…always having to nap and lay down and constantly sighing and saying how tired she is. It is truly draining to be around her. When we’re out and about and getting fresh air she is markedly better!
    My mother is the opposite…never stopping, constantly cleaning, talking, evaluating things, etc….it is also exhausting to be around her, however I do love the cleaning that she does when she visits!!! She does do lots of yoga and meditating, hopefully for her, that is her breath.
    For me, literally at this stage in my kids life, I’m pretty busy…I breath in the shower, when I get to take one!! And I just started back to work, doing massage one shift per week, and believe it or not, for me its very peaceful and I can do lots of breathing!!

    • kloppenmum says:

      Hi Jess,
      Yes, I know what you mean about busy-ness with the kids – and it never bothered me either. I guess I’m super aware of the need to spend time breathing-out, now that the Butterfly is 18 months old. I can understand how giving a massage would be relaxing for you: just the mind-set puts you in a whole different place, I imagine. And your mother and mother-in-law are fascinating – the polar opposites and each finding their own balance (I hope). I would love your Mum to pop over and clean our house too!

  3. This is a good reminder that I too sometimes need to simply be and breathe. One of my favorite ways is walking (and for the same reason that sitting meditation never worked well for me). Didn’t know that NZ has its shortage of light and SAD. What’s the weather like where you are then?

    • kloppenmum says:

      Hi ho Allycat,
      I love to walk, too – we walk the Hare to and from the bus-stop most days – but it’s usually a rush one way and I’m being distracted while walking the other, so it’s not really breathing-out time for me at the moment. NZ has lots of sunshine, particularly where we live – which is one of the reasons we live here ;). I just seem to be particularly suceptible to a run of any more than about four days with full cloud-cover. Living in England (four years) was a nightmare – it was seriously like I was two different people.

      • @klopp – “It was seriously like I was two different people.” I totally hear you. I’d be lucky to feel like two different people! In this gawd-awful constant London-like weather, I’m nothing but a hopeless puddle. I can’t get outta here soon enough.

        • Karyn says:

          Oh dear. I know that puddle feeling, and it’s no fun at all. Constant grey skies certainly sent me packing – hope you can find your way out soon. 🙂

  4. Li-ling says:

    I try to go for a weekly yoga session in which there’s a 15 minute meditation which I find helps clear my mind for the week. I do notice the difference when I miss it.
    Whenever I swim, I find my head buzzing unless I’m swimming really fast then I just get tired 🙂 I suppose I should add that I used to train competitively staring at tiles somewhat a forte LOL

    • kloppenmum says:

      What a gret idea, Li-ling. I love yoga. I had to stop going when I drove through red lights almost every week on the way home! It is something I would look at picking up again, thanks for the idea. 🙂

  5. Elena says:

    I’ve been known to sit and stare out the window at the trees for a good five minutes. People make fun of me for it, but it seems much healthier to be still in silence than to be one of those people who HAS to have noise and activity of some sort (music, tv, reading something, etc.) I know that sounds horribly judgmental, but it just amuses me that the people who are most likely to give me crap about chilling for a short while are the ones who are also most likely to go into a panic if they have no stimulation for even a few seconds.

    Right now that is really my only breathing-out time, but in the past I’ve gone to sit quietly beside the ocean or a river or even a creek. Going on walks is also very relaxing for me, just to find a gentle pace and breathe to the rhythm of my steps in the world.

    • kloppenmum says:

      Hi Elena,
      I love the idea of staring out the window for five minutes! And I agree with you on the people who panic with no stimulation (is that why they can’t give up tv?) … I think of it as observing rather than judging ;). I took the boys for a walk through the bush a month or two ago, and asked them to be silent while they walked – they couldn’t manage on the way in (to the waterfall, where we made lots of noise and played) but they were great on the way out. So important for us all to be able to be silent…the next step is not thinking with words either – hmmm. 🙂

  6. adhdwith3 says:

    I definitely err on the too busy/can’t relax side.

    Yoga has helped me a lot because it has taught me to breathe–breathe in and out.

    What good rituals to have. The sun is a miracle, isn’t it?

    • kloppenmum says:

      The sun is an absolute miracle. Yes, Li-ling suggested yoga as well. I must look at getting back into it – although I would probably break trying to bend over at the moment. LOL

  7. bizemom says:

    I try to make time to decompress but it is hard. Sometimes I take extra time in the shower to escape. Shhhhhh

    • kloppenmum says:

      It is hard. I had to make a conscious decision to do so, and even the three – three and a half minutes sitting still doing nothing, is difficult. Extra time in the shower sounds like a great idea, perhaps after my loves are asleep – so I don’t get company. lol

  8. Richard says:

    No strategies here — for breathing IN or OUT. I have decided to work on it though. This is Richard from former “The Richard Project” (1/2 marathon goal this year . . .).

    I definitely consider myself a Christian, but I’m going to look at some meditation, “mindfulness”, Zen practices (new blog replaces old blog which was turning negative, . . .)

    What intrigues me is that the very act of breathing is emphasized (I think). Not unlike what Li-ling commented on above — tho I can’t imagine getting back up off the floor, let alone “the lotus position”. 😉

    I believe I have some “SAD” as well. Have you tried light therapy, and if so, what did you think? Minnesota, USA here and Winter is . . . about 6 months it seems! 😦

    • kloppenmum says:

      Hi Richard,
      No 1/2 marathon planned, now? I’ve found just having that five to 10 minutes outside first thing in the morning has been great for welcoming/blessing my day and for the SAD. I haven’t tried light therapy. When I realised it was getting bad for me in London (lived there four years) I just packed my bags and came back to New Zealand! Cop out strategy, I know! Must pop over and check out your new site. 🙂

      • Richard says:

        “Planned” may not be quite the right word, . . . but still on the radar as a goal this year. 🙂

        Autumn and Winter are often gray here. In Winter, when it’s really sunny and bright here, it’s usually like -20 to -10 C. !

        By the way, I still think you’re spot on in the parenting approach. We can only hope (as a planet but especially in the West) that a new trend toward common sense and what truly works / is BEST for children takes a strong hold.

        I love reading your blog (even without the joy of having children).

        • kloppenmum says:

          Great that you haven’t given up the idea of running that far all together. I could swim it, but running was never my thing. I love those crisp winter days when it’s damned cold (not quite *that* cold here) with gorgeous blue skies. Thanks for the thumbs-up with my approach, hope you keep reading. 🙂

    • @Richard – “I believe I have some “SAD” as well. Have you tried light therapy, and if so, what did you think? Minnesota, USA here and Winter is . . . about 6 months it seems!” Six months?! Here in western Washington state, six months of sunless weather would be an absolute dream! Our sunshine days average a total of 2-3 months a year, making me, through no intent of my own, quite the authority on surviving severe depression and SAD. (BTW, WA state has one of the nation’s highest rate of both suicide and antidepressants use so lack of sun is serious business here.)

      Here’s the very abbreviated version: Yes, light therapy works. Just be sure to get a quality device (i.e., Costco’s is terrific).

      Change every lightbulb in the house to the full-spectrum sort. Note: not the same as “natural light; it must say full-spectrum on the package. These bulbs replicate (as best as a bulb can) all rays of natural sun and are superior to those curly ones (toss those out!) and regular bulbs, which are very high on the yellow spectrum and cause headaches, eyestrain and other maladies.

      5-HTP is excellent to increase serotonin.

      St. John’s Wort is fairly effective but not as effective as the former, to the experience of me and many more. Some folks combine the two without ill effects.

      Up the intake of green, yellow and orange veggies.

      There’s a few suggestions to start you off. If you want more, PM me via the Contact button at my blog. 🙂

      • Li-ling says:

        Allycat, the full spectrum bulbs you mention are really interesting… I’ve not heard them mentioned before. Interestingly, in most parts of Asia, flourescent-type lighting (white-ish light) is more common than incandescent lighting and it does seem better on the eye – personally – maybe because i’ve just grown up with it.

  9. Lauren says:

    Recently, I have been that demotivated, dont have energy kind of person. If I could sleep all day, everyday, then I think I might be the happiest snoring rabbit in town!

    I honestly think that its time that I took a breathing out session for myself. I rarely get one between working full time and being a newish mom.

    I know that when I used to play sport it defiantely helped – just to get out of the house, run a bit, hit a ball around (a little harder than sometimes necessary), it really does get rid of some of that stress that gets bottled up while breathing in!

    • Karyn says:

      Hi Lauren,
      You are busy, no wonder becoming a snoring rabbit sounds good to you at the moment! Sport is a great way to get rid of any built up tension; the problem I have is that sport often becomes another stressor, something else to be organised for, rather than the time out I need. 🙂

  10. Hi, time for “breathing” is a hugely important part of our lives. I think it is evidence of how the world we have created for ourselves (the demands, pressures, stress) calls for us all to take time out. We must also communicate our limits and stand by them with fervor. And that seems to be exactly what you are doing with your breathing time. If we can all try to establish what we REALLY need to be healthy, happiness follows. So does balance. Yet this is sooooo much easier said than done! Good for you to give yourself this time, and breath. Deep breathing increases your oxygen levels and clarity. Your cells “perk” right up.
    I drop off Goblin #1 at Montessori in the morning, when I get home with Goblin #2, she will take a nap (she is grateful for the quiet!). I always allow myself about 20 minutes of play time for mommy. Just rest. Ahhhhhhh. Oh, and the Mommy & Daddy Goblins are going away for four days…..YES FOUR days without the baby Goblins to rest. Their Grandmothers (loooove the Grandmas!) will be in charge while we are gone, and we feel good about it. I cannot wait. REST. Wonderful.
    (We’re going to Victoria, Canada…..I’ll probably blog the whole time!)

    • Karyn says:

      I never made it to Canada, so will be interested in hearing your impressions. Yes, I am finding the sitting still time very interesting. On one hand I feel so much better for doing it, but on the other it’s still frustrating for me as I know how many other things I could be doing. Perhaps with practise…

  11. kaet says:

    This is something I really need to work on at the moment. DH is working nights, and basically sleeping through nearly all the daylight hours, and that tends to discourage me from getting out then either, unless there’s somewhere I/we need to be. It’s been pouring rain the last few days (which is a great thing, but…) which hasn’t helped, either.

    • It can be hard to get that balance, especially when we have to consider other people. I was sitting outside this morning, and really feeling the nip of autumn in the air, wondering how much longer I’ll be able to do that comfortably. Thanks for your comment, lovely to get insights into other people’s lives. 🙂

  12. lilzbear says:

    Sometimes at work when I finish a task I take a step back and take several deep breaths. It is then that I realize how tense I go about my day. Sitting still for 3 whole minutes seems impossible…I need to try that!

    • I like the sound of stepping back at the end of each task. Of course, with being at home it’s difficult not to pause for a coffee each time! I’m up to six minutes of stillness now, and it is becoming easier, but that first three minutes was really hard. Harder than I thought it possibly could be!

  13. evafannon says:

    I wouldn’t categorize myself as unmotivated – but sometimes as the always busy type. I know I need to make more breathing in and out time for myself….it’s a work in progress! Running is the thing I like to do for myself – exercise, breathing, and quiet time with my thoughts or music….looking forward to getting out to do more of it now that spring is on the way 🙂

    • Hi Eva,
      Running is like torture for me, so I always admire (and am a little puzzled by) people who enjoy it!LOL
      I prefer to swim and am looking forward to my twice a week sessions returning soon. The stopping still for a set period of time each day has been a revelation for me. So hard to find that time to breathe out when we’re mothering and looking at all the tasks which need to be completed.

  14. E. Talisman says:

    Hi Karyn!

    Just wanted to let you know that I consider you my blogging buddy also. As you know, I’m notorious for reading blog posts and not leaving comments. So, although it may seem like I’ve neglected kloppenmum, that’s actually not true.

    Also, my wife is quite enjoying your posts. She often uses them against me. For example “See, kloppenmum says that the kids shouldn’t be drinking juice at night!” Yep, thanks for supplying her with amo 😉

    Anycase, I’m thoroughly enjoying your posts. Keep it up!


    • LOL
      Emad, I am only to happy to provide your wife with amo!
      Pleased that you’re enjoying the posts here, as I am yours. Thanks for commenting, I know you often don’t. 🙂

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