SIMPLE WAYS TO PRACTICE EVERYDAY MINDFULNESS
Tackling Stress And Anxiety, For Today & Tomorrow
Over the course of the last year or so I’ve been focusing a lot more of my attention and energy on myself, specifically looking after myself. After years of self neglect and overwhelming volumes of stress as a result of my career, it’s fair to say my health had never been worse.
I talked a little about this here and here, but looking back I can see I suffered for 6 years with rather chronic stress and anxiety that I didn’t really acknowledge let alone do anything about (I still suffer now but am becoming much more aware and conscious of it). The tail tail sign was weekly debilitating bed bounding migraines, every single week, for years, yet even then I didn’t really stop and consider that this was my body trying to make me stop, let alone realise the stress that was causing them.
As a confident, high achieving person, you wouldn’t really think on the surface there was anxiety and stress riddling away from the inside out. It was only really when I reached peak ‘unwell’ and finally got diagnosed with auto immune (Colitis) that I started to think about my health and started to realise the level of stress and anxiety I was dealing with. And sadly probably another year again until I was compelled into making some lifestyle changes and to re-frame my priorities – my migraines, skin problems and colitis reached peak, and I couldn’t continue with the constant battle of trying to feel well. It was only really this moment (a mere matter of months ago) that something clicked and I decided it was time to put myself first, over my job, and get a handle on my health properly.
Anxiety and stress affects everyone differently, it’s personal, it’s scary and it’s often invisible. Looking back, suffering with stress and anxiety isn’t new for me, I spent my late teens pretty unwell and had three years of therapy to help me through it. And here I was again in my late twenties, with a completely different manifestation of my anxiety – auto immune disease, but ultimately being driven by the same underlying issues – stress and anxiety.
Perhaps it was turning 30 or perhaps it was just feeling utterly fed up with living in such an unwell state, but in the last 6 months or so I’ve made a serious concerted effort to adjust my lifestyle to start living WELL. Finally making a commitment to myself above my commitment to my work. Seeing a TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine) doctor has really helped, of course western doctors have too and I am on treatment for life for my colitis, but the TCM approach helped open my eyes to self healing and the real importance of looking after yourself, from the food you put in, to the management of stress to simply taking some time out each week for treatment. It also opened my eyes to how interlinked my migraines, skin and colitis is, and critically how stress terribly impacts them all. I’m now dairy and gluten free, I obviously have medicine for my colitis, as well as supplements (tumeric, fish oil, digestive enzymes & probiotics) for overall inflammation, I am having weekly acupuncture, I’ve restarted Pilates and yoga, and am working much more consciously at managing stress, dealing with anxiety and ultimately trying to create more CALM in my life everyday.
It’s funny, as I’ve written SO many posts about managing stress and living more mindfully in the past – and whilst I still stand by those tips now, in reality they were my own cries for help and advice to myself, and as with most things you never really take your own advise. But this time it’s different, I am practicing a more mindful approach, there’s tons more I need to do, but for the first time in years I am looking after myself and I am seeing health improvements.
So whatever your situation, however stress and / or anxiety manifests for you – it might be one off bursts of stress, constant anxiety, IBS, IBD, migraines, panic attacks, a general feeling of depression, fatigue … whatever it is – taking some super simple steps to calm down is really important, and HELPS.
And not just calm down in the moment, but create more calm in your life so the impact of stress and anxiety doesn’t happen so often and so intensely. So today I wanted to share a few of the ways I am trying to be more mindful and some of the techniques I am finding are helping me be more calm.
Lets talk: Tackling Stress, Being More Mindful, Creating Inner Calm
SIMPLE WAYS TO BE MORE CALM, EVERYDAY
Tackling Stress, Being More Mindful, Creating Inner Calm
5-10 MIN PRACTICES
There are so many mindfulness journals available on the market that there really is something for everyone. I am quite particular about the sorts of journals I enjoy and would use, anything too laborious just doesn’t work for me, but journals that offer quick tasks that can be done without any effort are exactly what I need. I recently bought two 5 minute journals from Anthropologie (one is mindfulness and one is for the morning) and these are pitched at exactly the right level for me, 5 minute mindfulness activities that can be done anywhere, at anytime, and don’t require anything more than a few minutes of brain power.
Apps like Calm and Headspace are absolutely brilliant ways of adding a touch of mindfulness and calm to your day everyday, both offer free or paid for services and have such a great array of tools at your disposal. I love both for different reasons, and regardless of what you’re feeling or struggling with each day, they have an activity, meditation or calming story for you. I highly recommend both of these apps for a super simple but effective way of practicing well being and re-balancing yourself.
At it’s most basic, spending 10 minute simply ‘being’, with no phone, no TV, no computer, no noise, no anything … sitting for 10 minutes doing nothing is enough to achieve a little bit of mindfulness everyday. When was the last time you did nothing?
Another very simple practice is taking some time each morning or evening, just a few minutes is required, to set your intentions, think about some things your grateful for, or simply framing your day positively. Often starting the day or ending the day on the right note can make a big impact on how your day actually goes (it impacts your ability to deal with situations, and therefore manage stressful situations more positively). Intention setting is a really easy but positive tool for embracing calm, feeling hopeful and generally getting yourself into the right state to handle the day (and whatever it throws at you). State management is a super important part of mindfulness.
1 HOUR PRACTICES
PILATES / YOGA:
Regular practices such as Pilates and yoga are fantastic tools for mindfulness, they are great for breathing, releasing muscle tension, generally clearing your mind and relieving stress within your body and mind. I find when I do regular Pilates and yoga I feel much better both mentally and physically. It doesn’t have to be expensive classes, even doing a 40 minute yoga session from home is incredibly positive, or if those activities aren’t for you simply running or getting active is often a great release for people. The key is finding an activity that allows you to clear your mind, move your body and focus on proper breathing – you’d be amazed how bad many of us are at breathing properly.
Whilst walking has never been a big love of mind, a good hike does wonders for the body and mind. If you’re lucky enough to live somewhere with great scenic hiking routes, creating a regular time to get out and walk is incredibly powerful. But if you don’t live in the beautiful countryside, by the sea or in great hiking spots, it doesn’t mean walking can’t be done. A simple stroll during your lunch break, walking to work or jumping off the tube a stop early, or just ditching the car can be a great way to add some calm into your everyday – walking is a great tool for calming down and getting into the right ‘mental state’. The important thing is to be aware of what is going on around you, take in nature, breathe, appreciate the little things you observe and generally be present in the moment.
ACUPUNCTURE / MASSAGE:
I am a big investor in both massage and more recently acupuncture. I find massage a really important part of my ‘de-stress’ routine and it does wonders for both my physical tension in my neck and shoulders which happens more when I am stressed, but also it forces me to take a mental break too. Whenever I can i’ll book a 60 or 90 minute massage (usually once every month or two), but I also schedule bi weekly 30 minute chair massages at work too. More recently I’ve embraced TCM and have acupuncture each week – i’m really finding this process is helping me heal – addressing the levels of cortisol in my body, healing the ‘damp heat’ I have, but also forcing me to take an hour out of my day each week for self care. Both massage and acupuncture can be expensive, and it’s an investment I am consciously making – but if budget doesn’t allow for this, don’t let it stop you taking an hour out for some self care each week, even a regular time for a bath & face mask can do wonders.
I find ‘getting away’ from everyday routines and stresses a really important part of my wellness. Weekends at home, spa breaks, holidays, city breaks, anything that involves getting away from the day to day stresses of life, an opportunity to engage with something completely different and a chance to be more engaged in the ‘present’. There is nothing more mindful and calming to me, than exploring a new city, embracing the culture, architecture and food. Of course these things can cost a lot of money if you’re travelling afar, but even a trip ‘home’ or to stay with friends can work wonders. For me these are really important and something I aim to schedule for every other month or so throughout the year.
READING / CRAFTS :
Assuming you’re not reading a stressful thriller or horror novel, reading is another great way of having some ‘me time’ and escapism from everyday stresses. Making time to read, investing in books that bring you joy and calm, and indulging in a few hours of reading each week or day even, is another very simple but often incredible effective way of generating some inner peace and tranquility. Both of which are really important when you’re trying to de-stress and manage anxiety.
It doesn’t just have to be reading though, really it’s about finding activities and hobbies that offer you calm and a chance to unwind – art, gardening, cooking, surfing … whatever the activity if it allows you to relax, and not feel stressed, embrace it.
What it really all comes down to is creating new healthy habits in your life to reduce stress, help you establish time for self care and creating calm, and ultimately establishing positive new routines and rituals that help ease anxiety overall.
The techniques and tools are endless really, but working out what works for you is key – anything that helps you live in the present, be more ‘aware’ of yourself and what is going on around you, and helping you find practices that release stress and help you maintain a calm and positive mental state (rather than adrenaline fueled for example).
Paying more attention to the food you consume and actively fueling yourself with better more wholesome food, ensuring you get a solid night sleep (sleep is so much more important than we realise and it’s become a hugely important part of my daily routine now), getting a coach to help you build self esteem and confidence so those stressful situations become less daunting, or filling your home and garden with plants to grow and care for, taking up a regular art class or simply spending 5 minutes writing down your thoughts of the day – there are so many small and big practices you can embrace to help relieve your stress, calm your mind and relax your body, all of which help gradually ease anxiety, stress and increase your ability to live more mindfully (and ultimately, WELL).
They just require a commitment from you, to practice them regularly, to help achieve an overall state of calm, positivity and strong physical and mental health.
At it’s most basic mindful practice is as simple as focusing on the present, focusing on your body, paying attention to your breathing, appreciating and being grateful for what you have, finding things that bring you peace and calm (a stroll in the garden, drawing, writing, listening to music), and setting an intention of positivity for your day. It can be done in a few minutes each day, from anywhere at anytime, and the impact will be far greater than the effort involved in finding calm.