We are busy people. Our to-do lists are always filled with the typical things each week: grocery shopping, cooking, cleaning, laundry, kid-related errands and events, stuff for work, stuff for the side hustle, etc. In between the items on that list we sometimes forget that important thing at home, the dog spills cereal all over the kitchen floor, you take a few hours to help a friend in need, the barber accidentally messes up your hairline, at 8pm your kid tells you about a huge project due the next day, you get a flat tire, or you can’t find your left shoe!
Life happens! We can choose to either curse and be grouchy about it, or treat ourselves kindly and cut ourselves a break.
In our day in age many are overworked and overtired! It’s not that we can’t handle what life throws at us, it’s that we’re so used to going 80mph every day that we forget to take some needed time to rest - physically and mentally.
This is exactly what happens to the main character in the book I’m Stretched! written by Julia Cook. Although a kid, the main character is overwhelmed with her pet, homework, fitting in, friends, soccer, piano lessons, arguing at home, etc. There are so many things pulling her in different directions that she feels stretched, which can easily be replaced with stressed.
Whether we are 6, 36, 56, or 106 years old, we all experience stress. Some stress keeps us alert and on our toes. Other stress can lead us to tears, to grow a head full of greys, or drive us to eat a pint of ice cream. And while the ice cream can help us feel better in that very moment, there is something else which can help us throughout the course of time, which is mindfulness. There are many ways to practice mindfulness, which don’t all entail being quiet and still as we float away on a cloud. The following tips are aspects of mindfulness, which can help in times of stress.
Breathing Tip 1
Obvious tip? Yes and no. We may breathe naturally, but when we engage our minds while we’re breathing - that’s where the magic happens!
When feeling overwhelmed with emotions or life in general, slowly breathe in for 3 counts, hold at the top of your breath for 4 counts, and slowly exhale for 5 counts. Counting in your mind will help keep your focus on your breath. If other thoughts pop in your head, acknowledge them, let them go, and continue counting. As you get better with this, you can increase each count.
Breathing Tip 2
Sometimes we need more than just a breath, and for some, numbers are just plain scary. As you slowly inhale, breathe in something you need. As you slowly exhale, breathe out what no longer serves you. Examples may include: breathe in love, breathe out hate; breathe in peace, breathe out tension; breathe in patience, breathe out resistance. Whatever works for you. These words are called “anchor words” because they anchor your presence to the here and now.
As you practice mindful breathing and thoughts about the past or worries about the future enter your mind, acknowledge these thoughts, let them go, and come back to your breath by stating your anchor words.
Sure vacations, massages and manicures are all wonderful, but they can be an expense which we don’t always have the budget or time for. We do have the budget for sleep, eating well, and exercise; however, we don’t always carve out time for these important elements of self-care. Make yourself a priority. Sometimes that means saying no to overly committing yourself to others, stepping away from your desk when eating lunch, going for a quick walk during a work break, or eating dinner without looking at your phone. Everyone deserves to be taken care of - start with engaging in care for yourself.
The world is a field of energy. If we think negatively, we will see the world through a negative lens, and in turn we can attract more negativity to us. Also, carrying resentment and regret can be quite heavy on our minds and hearts.
Things not going your way? Change the way you look at it so you can work around the tough parts.
Struggling with a problem or goal? Instead of sulking, seek help and tell yourself you don’t have it YET, but you will.
Still mad at the person who dismissed or hurt you? Thinking ill thoughts about someone will hurt you more than hurt anyone else. Let it go and bring peace to your heart and mind by focusing your energy into something that does good for you.
Be Kind and Think Positive!
Be kind to yourself and understand that these tips may not work the first time, or for every situation. Having a mindfulness practice takes practice. Even when you have years under your belt, you’ll have days you can get in sync with yourself easily, and others where it may be more challenging. This is okay! Understanding what is going on around you, acknowledging the way it makes you feel, letting thoughts go, and treating yourself with kindness is indeed mindfulness!
Wishing you peace to help you interact with those who challenge you, and to help you find peace within yourself as well.
Helping your learn, grow and inspire... mindfully.
Counselor De Jesus
See the YouTube video on "How Do You Help Your Kid Become Less Stressed" here.
Learn more about mindfulness in these posts!
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Vanessa De Jesus Guzman is a former teacher, school counselor and licensed associate counselor serving children and families in the northern New Jersey area.
To learn more visit www.freetobemindful.com.