There is no way for me to stress just how much I believe in all three of these things to help manage anxiety. And as individuals, those things will mean different things to each one of us.
For me, living a mindful life is about shutting out the anxious chatter in my brain. I immerse myself in the task at hand, focus on the sounds of my breathing and the sensation of the water when swimming, stop and breathe mindfully when overwhelmed and practice yoga to name a few techniques. Constantly living mindfully can be difficult with the stressful lives we lead which is why it is so important to plan for it and make it a priority. If you are finding yourself under pressure, without time to stop and be mindful at work, try these quick and easy sensory awareness techniques.
This truly is the most individual one on the list. But what is common, especially to women, is that we put off doing things that we like and make us happy in favour of doing what we should do or taking care of other people’s needs. You know we do it, there’s not need for me to go into a self-indulgent rant on societal conditioning and gender roles.
Suffice to say – prioritise yourself. You are important. Put time aside to do whatever it is that feeds your soul and makes you happy. Spend time in the garden, sit and read, swim or go to Bungee Fitness class (that’s actually a thing). Self care isn’t all bubble baths and facials. It is you time. Relax, sweat, learn or create. Just take time to care for you.
Surprisingly, self kindness is different to self care. It is about the attitude we have towards ourselves and the standards to which we hold ourselves. Often we are overly critical of our own behaviour and hold ourselves to higher standards than we would other people. My favourite way of making sure I’m not being too hard on myself is to ask myself “what would I say if I were my own best friend?” Would you be so harsh if you were speaking to your best friend about the exact same situation?
It doesn’t necessarily come easily to start with, so plan to be kind to yourself, to take care of yourself and to make time for mindfulness.
Being trapped between the desire to get out and embrace the world and the overwhelming need to hide from it can be an exasperating experience. For me, it the word impotence is the one that best fits the situation. Knowing I have the strength, knowledge, intelligence and bravado to face any situation, but feeling anxious to the point of vomiting at the idea of simply opening a door if I don’t know what is on the other side of it fosters a feeling of impotence and despair.
The natural inclination for most of us can be to avoid situations that trigger anxiety. We find ways to complete tasks without putting ourselves in a situation that makes us feel unnecessarily fearful or make excuses as to why we cannot do them at all. For me it is taking a step back to let someone else open a door rather than going through it first, creating excuses as to why I am unable to attend that party I sounded so excited to go to three weeks ago or suddenly discovering ways to be helpful in a social situation rather than actually talking to people. Oh look, the drinks are low and I need to go and refill the chip bowls…
When we treat our anxiety by completely avoiding the situations that trigger panic symptoms, are we really helping ourselves or are we self-sabotaging?
The problem with avoidance is that it not only does it not solve anything, but it fuels the problem by creating an image of the issue that is much more alarming and insurmountable than it started out as. The more we avoid a situation, the harder it is to face next time it occurs.
Vicious cycle, really.
Many, many years ago, my beautiful friend Eileen told me about her friend, Sybil. Both Eileen and Sybil worked on the buses in England in a time where men considered themselves to be paying a compliment by slapping a woman on the arse and lewd comments were banter, not verbal harassment. Sybil was incredibly shy, and to work on the buses you needed a strong personality to stand up to the drunks and bums, as well as all manner of testosterone and ignorance fuelled misogyny.
I’ll be the first to admit that mindfulness has not been a large part of my life of late. All the lessons I learned doing my 7 Week Mindfulness Challenge have gone out the window. That being said, I don’t naturally replay conversations over and over in my head any more. I notice when I am doing that and deliberately stop myself. So maybe not *all* my hard work has been undone.
I brought my yoga mat to work today to start getting back in to a mindful mindset and I am trying to eat healthier as well as drink more water. My eating really took a nosedive over the Christmas break.
I’m not one for formal meditation on a regular basis, I prefer having practical techniques to use throughout the day to keep my mind clear and focussed on living and loving every moment of my life. One of the things that helps me quiet the chatter in my head is being aware of the sensations around me. We get so caught up in juggling every task we need to complete that we eat lunch at our desk, make calls while commuting and make mental lists of more things to do while running errands.
While it is important that we perform our jobs to the best of our ability, it is also important to nurture ourselves so we have the energy and desire to keep going. Living a mindful life does not mean we need to check out of our current lives and move to Byron Bay. Though, if that’s your dream then more power to you. It doesn’t mean you have to embrace hummus and hemp (I say while eating green beans dipped in hummus) but again, if that’s your thing, then off you go and live and love that life.
For those of us who simply want to live our existing lives in a more mindful manner before we finally end up shouting “what the fuck is wrong with all of you idiots?” out loud rather than in our heads in the middle of another pointless team meeting, sensory awareness can help you avoid an awkward HR meeting.
Quick and Easy Sensory Awareness Techniques for Mindfulness
Five for Five
Five Mindful Breaths
Remember how I said I do not like formal meditation? That is not because I do not see the value in it, it is more that it doesn’t fit into my lifestyle particularly well. I do love sitting at the beach or near a waterfall and meditating on the sounds and sensations around me, but that doesn’t happen on a regular basis. If I have half an hour free, I prefer to spend it in the company of my loved ones or indulging in a spot of escapism into my favourite fictional worlds.However, focusing in on my breathing has been a very helpful technique for me in overcoming many of the symptoms of my anxiety. If you feel yourself becoming stressed throughout the day, take five mindful breaths. Close your eyes if you have that luxury. As you breathe in, be aware of the sensation of the air flowing in through your nostrils, filling your lungs and exiting from between your lips. Feel your shoulders, stomach and ribcage move as you breathe.