Do you ever feel like it’s all you can do to keep your head above water; going through the motions but with no sense of connection or passion for your life?
Do you feel tired all the time, waking up from a poor night’s sleep, dreading the day ahead?
Are you so busy taking care of everyone else that even though you know you should, it doesn’t feel like there’s time for you to rest and recharge?
In the busyness of life, it’s easy to go into autopilot. Feelings get shut down and pushed aside in order to get through yet they show up in other ways: a stiff back and shoulders, jaw and neck tension, increased blood pressure, poor sleep or digestion and so on.
Without taking the time to pause, observe and release these tensions, they build, slowly draining our energy and vitality til the day we no longer recognize (or like) who we’ve become.
There’s no quick fix but there is another way; learning the art of letting go.
Which is not to say just get over it or pretend that everything is alright.
Rather, it’s an invitation to slow down and get present, resist the urge to spin round and round through your mind trying to solve the discomfort and instead be willing to simply feel and observe.
As you begin to witness and better understand your reactions, you can then determine which thoughts and behaviors bring you closer to the person you most want to be and which take you further from it (even though some of them may have served you well in the past).
Step out of your daily routine. Make time, whether you have 10 minutes or an hour, to disconnect from the world and slow down.
Find a practice or activity that recharges you, recognizing that this may be different from week to week or from what works for your partner, coworker or friends.
- What helps you to disconnect from the chatter in your head?
- Do you enjoy being out in nature or do you have a favorite spot indoors to retreat to (which may be as simple as a yoga mat on the floor)?
- Do you prefer to be active (running, biking, swimming, etc)? or do you prefer the stillness of a seated meditation or getting a massage?
If you only have a few minutes, you might try finding a quiet place to sit still or lie down and practice a breath technique that promotes relaxation.
If you have more time, you might try going to a yoga class, getting a massage or simply going for a walk or bike ride in a place that feels soothing to you. Being out in nature is often a powerful reset.
Whatever activity you choose, be fully present for it. Slow down and deepen your breath. If you’re feeling particularly anxious, lengthen your exhales to be longer than your inhales. As you get quiet, the voices in your head will likely get louder. Resist the urge to engage with them. Rather, with each exhale, simply let go. Draw your attention to the sensations in your body. Feel your breath as it expands your lungs. Feel the parts of your body touching the ground. Feel what parts of you are relaxed and what parts are tight or painful. Notice if certain emotions arise as you track the feelings in your body.
Again, you aren’t trying to solve, simply observe. Mindfulness begins with awareness.
To slip away from the worries, to do lists, conversations and negative self-talk is easier said than done, I know. However, the benefits of controlling rather than being controlled by our thoughts and emotions are so great that this vital life skill is worth practicing.
Some of the many documented benefits of mindfulness include:
- Decreased stress, anxiety and depressive symptoms
- Reduced blood pressure and lower heart rate
- Improved digestion and immune system functioning
- Decreased inflammation
- Improved attention span and memory
- Less emotional reactivity and higher levels of resiliency facing stressful situations
- Increased self-awareness, compassion and empathy for others
- Improved relationships with yourself and others
- Fewer headaches and stress-related aches and pains
- Better sleep and increased levels of energy
It can feel self-indulgent to prioritize self-care – until you begin to notice the benefits it brings not only to your own clarity and well-being but to your interactions with the people around you. Your tired, anxious, over-stretched self is not the best version of you or likely the one you want to be (or your beloveds want to be around). Taking time to pause, reset and reconnect with your wiser self will allow you to show up in the way that you most want to or at least with greater compassion for yourself and others.
Accept the road toward inner peace is not a smoothly paved one. There’ll be twists, turns, careless drivers and pot holes of emotional struggle to navigate. There will still be times when it will feel like you are waging a losing battle against your mind. Do your self-care practice anyway. Be flexible. You may have committed to 30 minutes and find that you’re only capable of sitting still for 10. Use those 10 minutes. The greatest tools of transformation that you possess are your breath and your awareness and they are always available to you.