We live in such a busy society where so much is expected of us from work, from family, from friends, from health professionals and it can leave us feeling stressed, overwhelmed and burnt out if we do not make a conscious effort to slow down and be present. If we don’t, we run the risk of not only burning out, but also letting life slip by without enjoyment or fulfillment. Instead of living fully in the moment and embracing life, it is easy for our minds to run away with us; think about the next thing on our to-do list, or ruminate on something we did not do or did “wrong” yesterday. I believe that true, deep and meaningful connection and wellbeing comes from being present. My first experience of mindfulness was shortly after I was diagnosed with M.E/CFS. I attended a 10 week mindfulness programme and it was the first time in a very long time that I allowed myself to be still, to be present, to be conscious and aware in a very long time. What led to this diagnosis was a journey to burnout, over-doing, over-working, over-expectation of myself. Constantly trying to push through, to prove myself to please everyone. My anxious mind was wizzing 100 miles per hour 24/7 and I couldn't sleep, I couldn’t rest. Mindfulness helped me to take mental breaks and to become more aware of my thoughts, feelings and behaviors without judgment.
So what is mindfulness? My perception of mindfulness is being present and aware, in each moment of internal and external experiences, without judgment. Whether that be awareness of your emotions, your behaviours, your physical sensations, noises around you, things you can see, smell, touch or taste. So long as you are fully present and aware of that experience.
I have found that mindfulness can help with:
Managing Chronic Pain
Building mental capacity and resilience
Preventing burnout and overwhelm
For more information on how mindfulness can help with these things, listen to the shine with Stephie Be podcast here
How can you practice mindfulness?
This could be through something like yoga where you move your body with awareness in sync with your breath. You can pay attention, without judgment on the physical, emotional, mental and spiritual sensations the movement evokes. When you pay attention to your body you can treat it with more compassion and kindness and be aware of where it needs more love and attention. In our society we are often expected to push through and perform at our optimum at all times when actually our bodies are often asking something different of us. If we do not listen to the inner whispers of our body, we run the risk of hitting burnout, causing stress and tension in the body and even chronic illness. If yoga is your thing, don’t worry. You can practice mindful walking, by walking slowly and noticing all the tiny movements in the muscles and the bones in your feets, ankles, legs, hips and spine, notice how your functional anatomy works and how each body part connects with another. You could also practice dancing or swimming; any movement will do, so long as you are doing it with presence and awareness and noticing all the sensations.
This can really help a person focus, slow down and notice what they are nourishing their body with. It is often said to start with a raisin or a lemon, but any food will do. If you have had a super busy day at work and you only have 5 minutes for your lunch, try not to wolf it down, take notice. Take notice of the colour of your food, the texture, the shape, the size, the feeling, the smell, how it activates your saliva glands, the sound it makes, the taste it has and the memories associated with it. It will refocus your brain, your attention and you will be able to proceed with your day with more clarity, capacity and calm.
Mediation is a really good way to become mindful of your thoughts and your emotions. Try not to attach any judgment to your thoughts or emotions, just notice what comes up. When we are more aware of our thoughts and emotions we can then better understand why we might have been behaving in a certain way. You can also then journal on what came up for you during your meditation to see what stories you have been telling yourself, are there any themes, are your thoughts helpful or would you like to change your mindset. When you let thoughts or emotions come up without judgment, you can also let them go more easily and just let them pass through you. This way, you can reduce rumination, anxiety and depression.
This is one that I love to do personally and with my clients because it allows you to embrace the present moment fully, it is so grounding and perfect for reducing anxiety, practicing gratitude and feeling more fulfilled. Simply look around and notice:
- 5 things you can see
- 4 things you can touch
- 3 things you can hear
- 2 things you can smell
- 1 thing you can taste.
It is a perfect exercise for those times you are feeling anxious, overwhelmed or stressed.
There are several ways in which you can do this. I love breathwork as it allows us to not only ground and reconnect to ourselves but when done correctly it can also be used as a tool to bypass the conscious mind and to bring the subconscious to awareness for healing. But for now, here are some simple tips for a simple mindful breathing exercise which can help you to come home to yourself, be present and reduce stress.
Just notice your breath, where in your body can you feel it most? Nose, back of throat, chest, stomach or maybe somewhere else. What is the speed of your breath? Is it slow or fast? What is it’s texture like? Is it deep or shallow, smooth or staccato? Just simply notice, without judgment.
Pay attention to every part of your body, from your toes to your head, just notice the sensations without judgment and allow your focus to land on each body part. This is a really grounding tool that can help you reconnect with your physical body. I will be hosting a liv e body scan o Facebook on Thursday 16th February at 1pm. You can join here.
Right now, you might be thinking that you don’t have time to be mindful in your busy life. But the brain is like a muscle, the more you use it, the stronger it gets. I remember the days when I found meditation and mindfulness extremely difficult and now it comes naturally to me when I need it without effort because I have used it for so long. Whether it is mindfully listening to the birds on a walk, seeing the light glint in a river, being fully pleasant with a loved one, a friend or a client in a conversation, noticing signs and signals from my body or being aware and present with my emotions, using my breath to help me get to sleep. All of these things took practice but now enable me to be more grounded, focussed, relaxed, connected and have a better sense of physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual wellbeing.
Where did I start? Believe it or not, on the toilet. I noticed that when I used to work in a busy open plan office, I would get tired easily and my brain was overstimulated and distracted easily. I think this was partially to do with the M.E/CFS and partially because I am an empath and Highly Sensitive Person (HSP) so pick up on other people's emotions easily and get easily overstimulated (one reason why I started working for myself). But on days where I would notice my brain getting fatigued or overwhelmed, I would go to the toilet and just spend a few extra minutes there in the quiet. I would feel my feet on the ground, reconnect to my breath and be still for just a moment. I would leave the bathroom feeling a little more energised, clear minded and calm. Start with just a few minutes a day. Where it is listening to the birds singing in the morning or really appreciating the taste, smell, texture, sensation of your first sip of tea or coffee of the day. The more you begin to integrate mindfulness into your daily life, the easier it will become, the more grounded you will feel and the more equipped you will be to make positive changes in your life.
Love, Light & Healing, Stephie