Life is busy. The pressures of work, family, relationships, friendships and just generally trying to keep ourselves alive & functional, compete for our attention daily, so that we move through the days wondering where the hell the time went (and find ourselves at the end of every year lamenting how quickly a year goes by these days…!). So often we jump from one task to the next, simply trying to get through the never-ending to-do list without actually focusing on what we are doing. It’s stressful. Human beings are not meant to function like that. It overwhelms us and our nervous systems leap into fight or flight mode, flooding our bodies with adrenaline and stress hormones that exhaust us and make us sick.
There are a million different books, articles, blogs & columns dedicated to reminding us to slow down, be present, take time for ourselves…it’s good advice, but advice that I find is rarely taken (especially when the immediate reaction is, ‘I don’t bloody have TIME to meditate for half a fricken hour!!!”). Good intentions fly out the window when you realize that you have to get the kids up, get them to school, get to work, get through meetings, get that report done, respond to all your emails, deal with clients & colleagues, collect your dry cleaning, do the shopping, fight traffic to get home, get dinner on the table so your babies don’t starve….I’m not even done with that list because I’m exhausted just writing it.
Today I want to focus on ‘me time’ – those moments when you take a break and focus on you and what makes you happy. How many of you reading this ACTUALLY do this on a daily basis? Mindfulness is a practice that is described by livingwell.org.au as ‘The awareness that emerges through paying attention on purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgmentally to the unfolding of experience moment to moment (Kabat-Zinn, 2003).’ Being mindful, when practiced regularly, will help ‘allow you to be able to identify, tolerate and reduce difficult, painful and even frightening thoughts, feelings and sensations.’ In other words, it helps you deal better with life’s crap.
For me, when I am feeling stressed, overwhelmed or anxious, I simply find that putting my phone in another room, pulling out my background boards, gathering some props and having a play with styling, really helps reduce my stress levels - almost instantly. Why? Because it forces me to focus on the task at hand. It demands my complete attention. No distractions – just me, my hands, and my visual compass.
To whomever is reading this, I am setting you challenge this week. Schedule just 30 minutes for you, where you actually take the time. Do the thing you love doing (cooking? Reading? Gardening? Drawing? Painting?) and focus on it whole-heartedly, even if you don't get through the full half hour. Put your phone away, put the kids in another room, remove all traces of ‘work’ from your space, and just create, without worrying about the end result. I promise you will feel better for it.
Little tips for enhancing mindfulness:
- No phones allowed! Your smartphone is wonderful, but all those notifications can induce anxiety if left unattended (not to mention the heart palpitations when the phone rings & you don’t answer it – argh!), so best to just leave it in another room for a while!
- Pop on some music, whatever soothes you or makes you feel joyful.
- Reduce bio-distractions (I just made that up, that is not A Thing™) by making sure you have eaten & are well-hydrated. Nothing can ruin a perfectly scheduled me-time break like being hangry.
- Make it a regular practice. Schedule some time into your day, every day, to focus on you and just being present in whatever you are doing, even if you have to send yourself a meeting request.
Slow down. Breathe. Take time for you. It's important.