My 9-year-old looked up at me, his big, brown eyes framed in furrowed brows: “I’m not ready,” he declared. We’d just returned from the coast, our long days at the beach lingering in his sun-kissed hair and golden skin. 

The final stretch of summer was screeching to a halt with a full weekend of early-morning wake-ups and a competitive soccer tournament. It was a sharp pivot from vacation to commitments. He struggled to keep his head in the game, to adapt to altitude after two weeks at sea level, and to not take his coach’s roaring voice to heart.

My son loves soccer. And, he was not ready.

Soon after came the first day of fourth grade. Riding the high of a months-long break filled with camps and neighborhood kids, he was excited to meet his new teacher and reconnect with old classmates. By the end of the week, weary and washed out, he proclaimed: “I’m not ready.”

My son loves school. And, he was not ready.

Friday evening, when the sun had set and he was nestled in bed with two goldendoodles and a Percy Jackson novel, I crawled in next to my boy. With heavy eyelids and a yawn, he reached out for a hug. This is our thing. Most nights, in that liminal space just before sleep, I lay down and he opens up.

“Summer was so fun and free,” he said, “and now I suddenly have all of these responsibilities. I want to go back to the way it was.”

Ah, transitions. All sense of ease goes out the window…and in comes winds of exhaustion, irritability, confusion, and all sorts of discomfort. 

Not ready to let go of late nights and boundless days, he was digging in his heels and clinging to summertime. To stand in the present—to embrace fall with its structure and stability—he needed to walk out of the past.

I wrapped my arms around him and agreed that change can be challenging. Suggested he give his body and mind a month or so to ease in (it isn’t officially Autumn until late September, anyway!). Planted a few positive words in his burgeoning brain.

Monday morning, he woke up and announced “today is a good day.” He hummed as he pulled on clothes, nibbled on peanut-butter toast, and shrugged on his backpack. Later that afternoon, he left for soccer with a notable pep in his step.

My son was tiptoeing into the new season. Watching him, I realized I hadn’t been ready, myself. With a big sigh, I let go a little, too. And the winds of change began their slow and subtle shift to a softer breeze.


A Sigh For Change

Long exhales help us find peace and calm by engaging our relaxation response. Sighing, specifically, has been linked with short-term psychological relief from challenging feelings. And—according to a new study by scientists at Stanford University—sighing on purpose several times in a row (a.k.a., cyclic sighing) can provide long-term stress relief. 

Try cyclic sighing for a few minutes each day, when you’re facing change, and anytime tension is on the rise:

Inhale briefly through your nose to partially fill your lungs, then complete that inhalation. Exhale through your mouth for twice as long as the inhale.

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