Hurry up and relax

by Dr. Ellen Cullman, FLT Columnist

A friend and I arrived late at a swanky downtown Toledo restaurant. We planned to eat a relaxing dinner and share “girl talk” before seeing a play. As we began to eat, it felt like an oxy-moron of “hurry up and relax.” We sensed an inner need to hurry with a desire to relax at the same time. Glancing at our watches, we passed on appetizers and engaged in selective chatter as we measured the pace of forking and chewing to be on time for the play.

Do you recognize yourself in the above scenario at times? How about when you have a hectic morning at work and you order lunch to eat at your desk? Your body is in work mode and, while chewing, your mind keeps grinding away on task-completion. On the other hand, how do you schedule your children’s after school activities and include simple, wholesome eating without rush-and-stuff drive-through menus?

There are no simple answers to these seemingly helpless scenarios, yet admittedly, they do promote physical exhaustion and mental tension. Stuck in the conundrum of “hurry up and relax,” perhaps it is best to start where you are and just “breathe-in, breathe-out.” It might seem that you are swallowing your self-reliance with each bite of your burger. Be assured, you are not!

A straightforward mindful breathing practice such as focused breathing helps you stay in the moment and over time it becomes a welcome moment. You begin by focusing on your in-breath and saying silently in your mind “breathing in.” Then focusing on your out-breath, silently say “breathing out.” As you develop your pace, you can simplify the phrase to “in” and “out” with each breath. There are other phrases that may be more meaningful. You could say in rhythm with each in- and out-breath “I calm my body, I calm my mind,” and then shift to “calm body, calm mind.”

There are no guarantees for you of a calm world all the time, but you can learn to respond more calmly to the world presented to you. These short phrases, sometimes called mantras, are meaningful words present in your thoughts that you say or think in pace with your breathing. They may be spiritual in nature or your own words that kindly guide and direct you. The more accustomed your brain becomes to thinking and saying them when stressed, the more readily reassuring they are when you need them.

When I stumble upon “hurry up and relax” again, my breath will be ready to create a calmer more welcome moment – not perfect, but a more pleasant one.

Call 419-494-7699 or email Dr. Cullman at with questions about this column, mindful eating or for information about mindful eating sessions.