Time Out for a Time In
Stressed out? Probably. It is a reality that most of us face. Some people say financial concerns cause stress. Others say their stress comes from a family situation. Many people find their jobs are the primary cause of stress. Whether you have too many things to do and not enough time to do them, or don’t give yourself the time to eat properly, or you have difficult relationships at home or at work, the source of stress is different for each of us. Though each one of us has different stressors, the effects of stress are what we might have in common. Stress, sometimes called the silent killer, has been blamed for all kinds of illnesses and disease: high blood pressure, depression, insomnia, and anxiety to name a few. And we want to avoid those. Here’s a list of tips for how to reduce your stress, enhance your self-awareness, take better care of yourself every day.
- Start Your Day with an Intention: When you get up, or when you arrive at work, set an intention for the day. Decide what you want to experience more of. Stick a post-it to your commuter to remind you what to pay attention to during the day. Maybe you want to see more kindness, efficiency, wisdom, inspiration, creativity, or awareness. You always will find what you are looking for so pay attention to what that is and anchor your awareness again and again to what really matters to you.
- Reconnect with Your Body. Get in the habit of asking yourself, How do I feel right now? Notice and give yourself some slow deep breaths. The body and breath anchor you to the present moment (unlike the mind which often dwells in the past or future). Relax your body, whether sitting or standing. Feel your feet on the floor. Notice your weight and balance; relax your arms and hands. Straighten your spine. Relax your shoulders. Relax your face, your eyes, your jaw, your forehead. Pay attention to your body and breath at least three times a day.
- Take a Time out for a Time In: Sit in silence and meditate for 20 minutes each day. (All at once or two periods of 10 minutes each.) Get your power back and “re-source” your energy. Simply sit down, close your eyes, and as you breathe through your nose gently focus on the natural sensations of your breath. Don’t try too hard. Don’t worry about your thoughts. If you get distracted, refocus. Be kind to yourself. The stress will dissipate. Don’t wait for something magical to happen, instead, just do it. Come out slowly and you’ll feel happier, more creative, and fulfilled.
- Be Here Now: Your life is taking place one moment at a time. So it’s ideal to have your attention on this moment right now. This is where your life is. This moment, like all present moments, is when you have access to your creativity, inspiration, possibilities, even your inner wisdom and your emotions. When you notice you are focused on or worrying about the future more often than you are paying attention to the present moment, bring your attention back to the present moment by paying attention to your body or your breath.
- Make Ordinary Actions Mindful: It’s a practice that helps you to break out of your habitual responses and your “automatic pilot.” Choose a cue, such as your phone ringing, or passing a particular road sign on your way to work, or drinking a glass of water at your desk. Use the cue to be completely aware of what you are doing while you are doing it in a non-judgmental way. Bring your attention to the present moment, become aware of all your senses. Mindfulness reduces stress, increases self-awareness, and makes you aware of the choices available in each moment.
- Mindful Refreshment: Here’s an example of how to practice mindfulness while drinking a beverage. It begins when you pick up the bottle or glass. Notice the way the light reflects on it. Notice how the container feels in your hand, its weight, texture, temperature. Take a sip and swallow. Notice the temperature and flavor (if there is one). sensations on your lips and in your mouth as you drink. Don’t judge or label your experience, simply engage in it. This practice helps you to attend to this moment and all others as they arise, so you can savor your life.
- Ring in the moment: Do you grab the phone as soon as it rings? Remind yourself that you have a choice. You can pick up the phone or let it go to voice mail, or let it ring one extra time so you can take a deep breath. Or let it remind you to shift your gaze from your computer to outside the window, or to relax. The ring could be the trigger to remind you of your intention for the day. Change this reactive stressful pattern (and others like it) and remind yourself you have a choice.
- Slow it Down: Do whatever you’re doing more slowly. Slow down on purpose (not necessarily when you are at work). You can do this almost anytime – while driving, walking, reading, eating, or drinking. You might find at first slowing down drives you a bit crazy, especially if your habit is to rush through your tasks. But when you find yourself in a hurry, ask yourself, What is all the rush about? You might find you’re simply being mindless when you could be mind And you can enjoy this life of yours.
- Approach People, Places & Experiences with a Beginner’s Mind. Don’t be a know-it-all. Instead, be present with what is actually happening instead of your ideas about it. Maintain a childlike curiosity. For example, go for a walk (without talking on your cell phone) and resist the urge to label or categorize anything. Notice the actual colors, textures, shapes, temperature, sounds, aromas, space, light, shadows, movement and stillness as each sweetly meets your senses. Simply experience, rather than label, this world around you. With an open mind, wisdom, inspiration, and support are found everywhere.
- Use Your Inner Compass: When faced with a choice, pay attention to how you feel, notice the sensations in your body. Express yourself and live with integrity. There’s no need to manipulate yourself to please someone else. Ask yourself, “Is it a yes or a no, or a yum or a yuck?” Move toward the yums and away from the yucks. When making a choice or taking action, relinquish your need for approval from others. You are the wise one. You usually do know best. Trust yourself.