Don’t Forget to Breathe

Posted on November 21, 2018 by Jenn Zatopek

Hello, my friends.  Welcome to round one of the holiday escapades: Thanksgiving.  (Just imagine the sound of a gong going off.)  As someone who has ever so tiny issues with uncertainty and stress, I am doubling down on my self-care practices including prayer and meditation, daily gratitude lists, and calling only the people who are kind, loving, responsive, and affirming.

Do me a favor and remember to find those people right now.  If you are expecting respectful behavior from folks who have a pattern of behaving in ways that are mean, indifferent, hurtful, vindictive, or rude, step away from the phone please!  You will thank me later.  Our beloved toxic folks in our lives cannot and will not behave in any other way than this.  At least, until they decide to change their behaviors and show us that they are trustworthy.

I am not saying this is impossible because the human heart is a great mystery, but I am asking that you review historical evidence.  If historically, a certain family member calls you names or uses guilt as a way to communicate, consider stepping away for a brief respite. It really is okay to do so.

Personally, I have a “do not call” list of folks I must stay away from during stressful times.  This is deeply painful for me as I desire to love everyone in my life, but as a recovering people-pleaser and nurturer, I must accept the reality that not everyone in my family is a safe person for me to connect with, especially during the holiday season. In addition, if you need a model for setting boundaries with others, please see Jesus for evidence.

Jesus did not tell us to keep chasing others who have a pattern of harming us.  In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus specifically orders his disciples to “leave that home or town and shake the dust off your feet” if they are not welcomed.  This sentiment really does apply to us today, and is a marvelous way of remaining calm and practicing detachment at the same time!

We really aren’t meant to keep exposing ourselves to hurtful behavior in order to preserve notions of traditional family.  (Please see the last post for further clarification.)  We are meant to set firm and wise boundaries with those who have a history of hurting us, which strengths our compassion.  It gives us grace for the times when we do decide to make contact with those family members, or go into the arena as Dr. Brene Brown would say.

Around this time of year, much to my own chagrin, I have to avoid certain family members because of dangerous interpersonal dynamics and while that isn’t what I want to do because I do love and care for them, it saves my heart.  That is the most important thing for those of us who tend to reach for stagnant ponds, of relationships that are not life-giving or fruitful.

Please, don’t drink the water.  Reach for the people who love you and treat you with kindness, love, and respect.  We show people how to treat us when we learn to accept only behavior that is warm and hospitable, generous and tolerant.  You are worth it.

And in the words of my beloved mentor: don’t forget to breathe this week!


Meditation during stressful seasons is saving my life. I use a variety of resources including Dr. Kristin Neff’s self-compassion guided meditations.  She is a Buddhist psychologist who teaches at University of Texas.  I can’t recommend her meditations enough.  For those of you who practice Christianity, the Liturgist’s Garden meditation is very soothing and is based on the practice of stillness, taken directly from the Psalms.

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