Toes grip the edge of a ledge, cool cement against fleshy skin. Gravity pulls one way then the other. A sharp inhale precedes a slow and shaky exhale.

As students and academics we are constantly in a balancing act. We feel responsible for the agreements we have made to others and to our own choices. The major you wanted, your parents who are paying for your college, your friends who depend on you, your job that pays you. On the professor side, the classes you said you would teach well, your editing responsibilities, your students who you genuinely care about, your family. We find ourselves teetering and gasping constantly, sharply inhaling just before avoiding a fall off the edge.

This post invites you to do two things.

First, pay attention to how you are breathing. It doesn’t serve you to constantly be sharply inhaling and shaking exhaling. Let’s breathe differently. I’ll have a post later reflecting on the origins of why breath is important, but for now, just pay attention to it. Close your eyes. Be still. Listen to your breath. What does it sound like in your head? What does it feel like in your nose and your throat? In your belly? If you can’t feel it in your belly, breathe deeply enough to feel it there. Do this at least three times.

As you breathe in, pay attention to where you feel tension, discomfort, tightness or pain. With each inhale, imagine that breath moving to that spot and bringing it a little bit of love from yourself. Heal those spots with your own good will and intention. Do this as long as you wish and stop when you feel it’s time to.

Second, I invite you to explore what agreements you should make with yourself. I already mentioned the ones you have to your responsibilities, your life choices and your family and friends and work. Ask yourself what you would want from you if you were talking to a separate person. How would you want to be treated? Would you force yourself not to sleep? To be too busy to eat well? I know it seems insurmountable to make changes here, as you already feel stretched to the limit. But just the act of thinking about it will help you think of yourself more kindly. It will raise your awareness of your self talk, a mindfulness practice, and flip it to being more positive. Just thinking about it will make a difference.

Have a good day, and be sure to thoroughly enjoy the brief moment of calm when you listen to yourself breathe.


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