hope,  optimism,  Positive Psychology

Flustered, frustrated, or feeling stuck? Make space.

If you are irritated by every rub, how will your mirror be polished?



Negativity has an energy about it.

I was having a cranky morning. The stars were misaligned, Mercury was in retrograde, I had a bee in my bonnet, whatever—I woke up on the wrong side of the bed. Midmorning, while complaining and wrestling with some blankets, hastily trying to make the bed, I accidentally knelt on the nearby window curtain and all at once (CRASH!) yanked the curtain down, with half the rod, broke the rod, and was unceremoniously (BAM!) clonked on the head by it.

I yelled a curse of some kind (obviously), and because I was already in such a sour mood, I also had an immediate, visceral reaction to this extra-annoying (undeserved!) wallop – my instant physical instinct was to go full Incredible Hulk on it and use all of my frustrated and thus superhuman strength to rip the entire thing, brackets and all, right out of the drywall.

Did I absolutely, 100% want to do exactly that in the moment? YES!

Did I do it?  No.


I somehow summoned the presence of mind, in that suddenly charged, negative space, to register my crankiness and reactivity, STOP, and take a Very Deep Breath. Okay, it took several—but with a few moments of stillness and breathing, I calmed down enough to assess the situation and make a better choice about what I wanted to do next. Like maybe see about fixing things instead of breaking them more.

A few helpful lessons I think we can take from this whole ordeal:


Try to remember to pay attention to what you’re doing so you can avoid accidentally breaking things. (Also remember: “Do or do not. There is no try.” – Yoda)


Keep practicing mindfulness and meditation regularly so you have the awareness and control needed to stop yourself from intentionally breaking things.


Negative feelings have energy – sometimes BIG (hulking, paranormal-sized) energy that, if left to run amok, can very easily make everything worse!

And one more thing:

Can breath sometimes cast a magic spell? Totally.

Anyone who thinks magic isn’t real just isn’t paying enough attention.

breathing room

Whether due to a busted curtain rod or a different kind of broken flow, the challenging feelings of frustration, anxiety, irritation, and overwhelm all have something in common: they’re crowded. When we actively cultivate hope, optimism, and a positive attitude, we’re less likely to be jostled around by difficult or annoying happenings—but our better angels (the ones who laugh, shake their celestial heads, and get to work solving our problems rather than multiplying them) can still get crowded out sometimes, no matter who we are. They have wings! They need a little room.

To get that room and better insure they’ll be nearby when we really need them, we need to practice making space.

How can we make more space in our lives?

There are lots of different kinds of space we can make, and the more we make the merrier and less ruffled we’re likely be as we go along.

Here are some ideas.

Make physical space

Tidy up, declutter. Purge stuff you no longer enjoy, use, or need. Reorganize or redecorate to make your space more pleasant and aesthetically pleasing to you. Pay attention to your breath and the space it makes inside your body. Notice both your body in space and all the negative space around and beyond your body. Take a street you don’t usually take home from work to let your familiar route and world unfold and expand from the inside out.

make physiological space

Move your body or allow it to rest in perfect stillness. Shake, stretch, dance, jump around. Breathe big, hold it in, count to ten, whoosh it out. Make extra noise or be extra-quiet, depending on the kind of space you need. Get enough sleep. Go for a walk, do a little cartwheel for no reason. Don’t be shy – I mean, how would you feel if you saw someone do a random cartwheel down your street? Just saying.

make emotional space

Settle down with a good book (I find fiction works best here!) and a cup of tea. Take a moment for a little self-compassion practice. The more compassionate we are to ourselves, both in prickly moments and smoother ones, the more openness we’ll bring around with us, into whatever is happening. Keep a few reliable laughs in your mind’s pocket, too, like little charms to remind you not to take things too seriously. Laughter is an often effortless emotional space-maker. It has a wonderful way of rinsing off the moment.

make mental space

Try some breath-meditation. Sit or stand quietly, close your eyes, and rest your attention on the sensation of slowly breathing in and out. Your mind is like a puppy who will keep bouncing off after some shiny thought or feeling, and that’s no problem. When you notice it’s become distracted, just gently bring it back to the breath. Stay here as long as you’d like. This simple practice relaxes both the mind and the body and is excellent for making space. The longer you stay, the more you’ll make.

make creative space

Take a break from your creative project and do something completely different, then return to it and let new ideas and energy percolate in. Play creative games. Have fun! Fun is an excellent space-creator. Try a medium switcheroo: make something with a medium you don’t usually work with, and/or try to re-create part of your current project using a different medium (paint the song you’re composing! Hum the scene you’re writing) than the one you’ve been using. Notice the new pathways and possibilities bloom open.

make energetic space

One of my very favorite meditations (which I think I made up by mashing a few different ones together) I’ll call Balloon Levitation. It’s easy! Sit comfortably, eyes closed, straight spine, proud heart. Take a big breath into your belly, allowing it to expand in all directions as if filling up a balloon. When you get to the tippy-top of your inhale, imagine tying the neck of the balloon off to seal it, then, exhaling slowly, let the balloon float right out the top of your head. Watch it drift up and away. At the bottom of your exhale, begin filling a new balloon, and start the process again. If you do this enough times, you may start to feel yourself floating—right off your seat! (Talk about space!)

When you reach the end of your rope, tie a knot in it and hang on.

Franklin D. Roosevelt

To shine and expand and keep our better angels at the ready and inner Hulks in check, we need room to think, feel, move, and breathe. Did you know that the surface area of the human lung is equal to half of a tennis court? The airways that run through them purportedly total around 1,500 miles—the distance from Boston to Miami. The more areas of our lives we can breathe that kind of magically expanding space into, the bigger the margin we’ll have when we need to stretch or adjust our perspective or response–to the little things, the big things, to All The Things.

And when in doubt, remember:

It’s always been true that the best medicine for any difficult moment is a nice, deep breath.

And if that doesn’t do it. . . there’s always dancing.

Breathe, love, be well, and stay tuned for more! xo, ali

Want to learn more? Let’s connect! I offer complimentary consultations and would love to explore working together.

I'm a writer, artist, bookseller, educator, and certified Positive Psychology coach based in Burlington, Vermont.

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