Back when my kids were wee ones—full of nonstop energy and requiring my near-constant attention—it was not unusual to feel overwhelmed and on the brink of losing it.
These days, with my daughter away at college and my son channeling said energy onto the basketball court, overwhelm is not typically child-generated.
And yet, we can all benefit from quick calming techniques. Whether in the trenches with little ones, smack dab in the middle of the sandwich generation, or coping with life’s inevitable unforeseen twists and turns, I bring you the SNAP Break.
Here, I share a flashback to those chaotic years with little ones and a simple tool that, to this day, continues to save me:
Had you searched for me last night after dinner, you would have found me sitting in the dark shadows of my closet, not exactly hiding from my family, but engaging in a SNAP Break.
You see, thirty minutes prior, nursing a headache, I had come home from a long work meeting overwhelmed with deadlines to face the chaos of my kids joyfully shrieking and running laps inside the house.
Had I been in a different mindset, I would have relished the liveliness. Not tonight. Cringing at the volume, I felt thoughts begin to swirl in my head and impatience rise up inside like a storm. If I didn’t do something to change course, I was sure to snap, transforming from Calm(ish) Mom to Mommy Dearest right before their very eyes.
Oh, in the past I have attempted to muscle through this impending feeling, with mostly disastrous results. I knew from experience that we were all much better off if I headed straight for the closet for a little respite.
Rather than snap, I took a SNAP Break.
So into the closet I went, among the clothes and wire hangers, nothing magical about this place save its solitude and quiet. I took a SNAP Break to spare myself, my husband, my children and the dog from a woman on the verge of losing it.
We aren’t always able to physically step away from stressful situations, but if we are familiar with the SNAP Break, we can use it anywhere, anytime. It takes practice, patience, and above all, some self-forgiveness when Mommy Dearest appears in spite of our best efforts.
As for this stressed mom, when I emerged from my brief retreat, the threat of Mommy Dearest remained tucked away in the closet safely with the wire hangers. Calm(ish) Mom was back and ready to be with, really be with, my family again; my attitude adjusted, a larger perspective regained, all recovered with a quick SNAP Break.
The SNAP Break:
Stop. Hit the pause button. If possible, step away for a moment.
Notice body sensations. Are your shoulders raised? Brow furrowed? Jaw tight? Breath shallow?
Accept that this is how it is in this moment. Offer yourself compassion. Place you hands over your heart and take a deep breath.
Pay attention to the breath, simply noticing as it comes and goes, without trying to change it. When your mind wanders to the stresses at hand, gently redirect your attention back to the breath. Repeat as needed.