How to Blow Negativity Out Your Nose

Blogging sister Julie Roads recently wrote about traits she wished she could surgically remove from her being.

About those traits? I have a lot of them: fear of failure, fear of appearing weak, fear of being a burden to others, fear of rejection, negativity, fatigue, cravings for things that are not good for me, worry, fear of other people thinking that I have lost a screw.

I could go on, but you get the idea. I’m sure you have your own list.

During the past few weeks, however, I’ve made quite a bit of progress at letting go of most of these fears. I’ve done it by blowing them out my nose.

I learned how to blow stuff out my nose during a meditation class I attended just before my vacation. It was at that class that my teacher explained the theory behind Black and White Breathing. Black and White Breathing is simple. You close your eyes. You bring your awareness to your breathing. Whenever you have a distracting thought—I’m not doing this right….Crap, I forgot to get the milk….I have so much to do tomorrow, but I don’t think I can get it all done… I hope my husband doesn’t want to have sex when I get home tonight—you mentally turn that thought into black smoke, and you blow that smoke out your nose.

Then you imagine all that is good in the world – love, peace, compassion, understanding, patience, orgasms and so on – as white light, and you inhale that light.

Now, I’ve been doing this Black and White Breathing thing for about a year, but it wasn’t until a few weeks ago that I really got the point of it all. What can I say? I’m dense like that. But once I got the point, it was a huge life shift for me. I started doing it repeatedly throughout every single day. Here are some examples:

  • We’re driving to the airport. Traffic comes to a standstill. We turn on the radio and find out that there is a four-car pile up and that the road is completely blocked off. My thoughts start going to the We’re-Going-to-Miss-Our-Flight-and-I’ll-Never-Get-to-Go-On-Vacation-and-If-I-Don’t-Have-A-Vacation-I-Am-Going-to-Die-From-Stress place. I breathe that thought out my nose as I say, “Whatever happens is what happens.” I breathe in my nice white light. Suddenly I could care less as to whether or not I catch my flight. (We did catch it, by the way).
  • We’re in Florida and we’re on our way to a restaurant to celebrate my mother-in-law’s birthday. My husband is driving. His mother is in the backseat with me. His father is in the front seat. My father in law and mother in law are backseat driving, and it’s vicious. Not a second goes by without one of them telling my husband that he’s in the wrong lane, not turning at the right place, or going the wrong way. My husband is getting more and more tense. He ignores them, so they raise their voices. I’m thinking, “Gee this is quite uncomfortable” and “well, isn’t he getting a taste of his own medicine” and “wow, now I know where he gets this from.” As the tension in the car rises, I close my eyes and breathe the tension and negativity out my nose. When we get to our destination, I hug and kiss my husband. His entire demeanor changes, and now he’s able to deal with his parents civilly.
  • I’m having dinner with a group of people. An acquaintance makes an anti-Semitic remark. I’m half Jewish. People often forget this because 1) I don’t celebrate Jewish holidays 2) I practice non-Jewish religions such as Buddhism 3) I apparently don’t look Jewish. None of that makes anti-Semitism hurt any less. I think about sticking a fork in this person, but then I quickly breathe that anger out my nose. I wish I could say that I said the absolutely most perfect thing—the thing that would make this person realize that Jews are human beings just like everyone else—but I did not. Still, I’m quite proud of myself for not sticking my fork in anything that wasn’t on my plate.
  • As I’ve mentioned, I’ve experienced a long siege of mildly annoying events, the most recent of which was getting the stomach flu and spending Wednesday night in the bathroom and Thursday in bed. I initially worried about a lot of things—the vomit that I got on my bathrobe, all of the work I had to do but could not get done, and how to make breakfast for my 5 year old when I could not get out of bed. I blew it all out my nose. My 5 year old not only entertained herself, but she nursed me, putting “Get Well” stickers all over my shirt and bringing me Gatorade from the fridge. My husband came home from work and not only fed her and took her to school, but also cleaned the bathroom and brought me more Gatorade. My bathrobe still has vomit on it. I’m considering tossing the thing. But everything else worked itself out, no worrying required.

Oh, things I’ve blown out my nose these past few weeks. I’ve blown away worries. I’ve blown away cattiness. I’ve blown out my envy, anger, frustration, fear and more. Now, whenever I have a negative thought of any kind, I ask myself, “Is this thought going to get me anywhere? Do I need this thought?” If the answer is, “No,” I blow it out my nose. Blowing negativity out my nose does not stop life from being a struggle. Bad things still happen. I still get sick. I still get locked out of hotel rooms. People still say hurtful things. Not everything works out as planned.

But turning such struggles into smoke and blowing that smoke out my nose helps me to stop obsessing about the things I cannot change, so I can focus on the things that I can do something about.

Try it and let me know what you think.

How do you deal with negativity? Do you have techniques for overcoming worry, fear, anger and other negative emotions? Share them here, so others can learn from your experience.

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How to Help Moms with Post Partum Depression

I grew up knowing the story of my maternal grandmother and how, not long after her second baby was born, she turned on the gas and tried to kill herself.

I also grew up knowing the story of my mother, about how, not long after my birth, she was driving one day and thought, “I should just drive the car off that bridge and get it over with.” Then her milk let down and she thought, “Okay, I’ll nurse her, and then I’ll kill myself.” Then something else happened to occupy her attention, so she told herself she would take care of that, and then she would kill herself.

The story became known as the day my mother could not find the time to kill herself.

My mother and my grandmother had all of the classic symptoms of post partum depression, don’t you think? But when, roughly 6 years ago, I filled out that intake form that every pregnant woman fills out, I checked “No” for the question that asked, “Do you have a family history of post partum depression?”

At that time, I didn’t know I had a history because I didn’t understand what post partum depression was. Had the form asked me whether any of the women in my family had attempted suicide after birthing a baby, I would have answered, “Yes.”

But no one asked me that question.

So, despite the fact that I am a health writer, it never occurred to me that I was at a higher risk of getting this disease. And when I suffered hot flashes after my baby was born, I blamed it on fluctuating hormone levels. And when the rage erupted–causing me to scream at my husband, the dog, my mother, and yes, even my own baby—I blamed it on sleep deprivation.

And when I came so close to shaking the life out of my baby one night because of that rage, I blamed it on displaced anger. The person I really wanted to shake was my husband—because he was sleeping peacefully and I wasn’t.

And by the time I was fantasizing about driving my car into telephone poles, I just wasn’t thinking much of anything. The ability to suss out normal from abnormal? I no longer possessed that.

It wasn’t until years later, when I was reading a book called The Female Brain that I finally realized what had been wrong with me. The book’s author described post partum depression in a way that gave me pause, because it was as if she were describing me.

Discovery Health Channel will air a documentary next week about this important topic. It’s called Post Partum Nightmares, and I’m one of the women interviewed.

When I learned that the documentary was airing next week, my first sensation was one of embarrassment. I thought, “Oh my God, now every single person in the United States is going to know that I am a bad mother.”

Yes, that was my first thought. Indeed, post partum depression leaves behind a sense of shame and failure that can be quite hard to overcome. Until I had a baby, I’d experienced nothing but success. Then, I had a baby and I felt like a failure. I had no idea what I was supposed to do with a baby all day long. I didn’t know what my baby wanted when she cried. And, some of the time, I just didn’t want my baby anymore.

How could I admit that to anyone? I felt so shameful about those feelings.

But that’s precisely why I agreed to participate in the documentary, why I’m blogging about it today, and why I’m planning on giving a presentation about it to a large regional hospital. It’s my hope that the show will start an open discussion among women and their doctors. It’s my hope that it will help mothers shed their own feelings of shame and inadequacy.

Because if you’ve been through this, I can tell you: you are not a bad mother. You are not a pariah. You are not a failure or a weak person. You have or had a disease, one that should have been diagnosed and treated.

Twenty percent of new mothers suffer from this disease. Think about that stat. That’s one in every five mothers. I suppose that stat does not include the countless women who — like me and like my mother and like my grandmother – were never diagnosed.

Now, nearly 6 years after I lived through it, I wonder what we can do to change that. Is there a way to help more mothers? Is there a way to normalize this condition? I think there is.

First, I think medical professionals need to ask the right questions, and they need to ask them often. And, I believe, the right questions are:

  • Do you ever have moments when you feel so overwhelmed with the job of being a mother that you wish you could just end it all?
  • Do you feel like a bad mother?
  • Do you feel like a failure?
  • Have you ever wished that you could give the baby back?
  • Have you ever thought about hurting your baby?
  • Are you so exhausted that you can’t get out of a chair or off the floor?
  • Do you feel embarrassed about your ability to be a good parent?

Second, I think we, as women, can help new mothers. Rather than putting them through the Baby Olympics (Is your baby sleeping through the night? Is your baby rolling over? Is your baby crawling yet? Is your baby talking yet?), why don’t we just compliment them? Why don’t we do something helpful, such as dropping off a week’s supply of frozen dinners or hiring them a cleaning service? Why don’t we talk about our own experiences? Why don’t we say things like, “Early motherhood was one of the hardest stages of my entire life. There were times when I wasn’t sure I was going to live through it. Honestly, I felt like such a failure. How are things going for you?”

I don’t know for sure that such things would solve the problem, but I think they would definitely help. What do you think?

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