How to Bring Mindfulness into our Stressful Lives

How often do you feel in a rush and overwhelmed? The times when you
are a whirlwind of multitasking: tracking meetings, projects,
relationships, and making sure you packed the kids lunches. You might

be one of those people who can’t turn off their flow of thoughts at
night, or maybe you wake up at 4 AM to think about that embarrassing thing that happened at the Christmas office party or that looming deadline for work. A constant onslaught of stress takes its toll on our bodies and minds.

Symptoms of stress include:
Feeling out of control
Needing to control

An inability to relax

Low self-esteem
Avoiding friends and family
Avoiding social situations
Racing thoughts
Lack of focus
Being forgetful
Being disorganized
Poor judgment
Negative out look

Decreased Energy
Digestion issues

Body aches
Muscle tension
Lowered immunity
Low libido

These symptoms alone are horrifying enough! But when left untreated stress can develop into some serious health problems. Depressive and anxiety disorders, heart disease, high blood pressure, hair loss, gastritis… I mean stress is seriously terrible.

Most immediately stress leaves us feeling lacking in our daily lives.

We long to find “happiness” and might look to things like alcohol,
food, or shoes to fill the void. But these things only being temporary relief and often cause more stress after the fact.

For our health we must learn how to address our overabundance of stress. The primary way to do so is by giving our minds and bodies some down time to recuperate from our demanding lives. However, there are so many things that seem to take priority over *me time*. Not to mention the fact that there is an unspoken taboo against bumping your self care routine up on the priority list. Somehow, taking care of yourself is seen as selfish.

I’m not talking here about working out and eating right either. Although those things are important, they can also have a level of expectation to them. Often these aspects of health maintenance can
have some complicated roots in our perception of personal value. They
can be potentially linked in our minds to feelings of shame and guilt,
adding to our stress.

What I am talking about is taking care of your mind and body as a
whole unit by tuning in to your inner world. The best way to do this
is by practicing mindfulness. Yes, I know, it’s a big buzz word these
days and it often pops up in flashy articles that purport it to be
life changing with pictures of beautiful people in beautiful settings looking relaxed and content. I don’t know about you, but my life never

looks that good.

Frankly, as I type this my kitchen is a disaster, my kid’s clothes might still be in the dryer from two days ago, and the dog has,accepted the fate that there will be no walk today (sorry buddy). Yet

in the current clutter in my kitchen or those few short minutes between clients I focus on my breath. On some days it’s easy and I find a warm contented moment of calm, but on other days my mind is aflutter with overwhelming thoughts. And both of those things are

okay. Mindfulness is not a state of mind, it is a practice of mind and attention. It’s about being present in the moment. Some moments are more comfortable then others and every moment is a part of our lives.

There are some pretty simple ways to incorporate mindfulness into our
daily lives. By simply paying attention to the sensation of air moving
in and out of your lungs for 10 breaths is a great place to start.

Another easy opportunity is drinking your morning coffee mindfully.
Pay attention to every aspect of consuming that delicious cup of

coffee: the nutty smell, the warmth of the mug in your hands, the rich
color, watch the way it changes when the cream is poured in, the way
it swirls when stirred. And finally, that first sip. The sound it makes as you slowly sip it, the heat and texture on your tongue. Try to stay present and aware for one whole cup of coffee.
Taking a shower: Focus on the water splashing over your head. The way
the steam feels as you take deep steady breaths.

Washing your hands: paying attention to how the rushing warm water
feels on your skin and the smell and feel of the soap as you build lather up by rubbing your hands together.

Washing the dishes: focusing on the warmth of the water.  Look at each
dish like you have never seen it before.

Walking the dog: focus on each foot fall, the smell of the air, the
sound of the wind.

Don’t be surprised if your brain fights this by holding on to worry
thoughts.  Just acknowledge them and let them go and refocus. That is
in fact the practice: breathe and focus. That is what will strengthen your ability to find calm and contentment.

Simple daily activities can easily become mindful moments just by
focusing only on the task at hand.

In a way those articles may be right. Mindfulness can change your
life. Maybe not into the perfect life, but into a more contented and authentic life that is wholly yours.

Now excuse me, I’m craving a cup of coffee.

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