Monday, November 10, 2014

Schedule Mindfulness

We are bombarded with stressors on almost a constant basis. Both external and internal, these stressors have a profound affect on us - physically, psychologically, cognitively, and emotionally. We often think of stressors as major issues - illness, financial problems, family problems. However, those stressors awaken more natural, proper responses in our bodies. We take appropriate steps to act upon those situations. Even major illnesses demand that we re-think our lives, what we do, and how we can best augment our own healing.

But, what about the tiny stressors? The ones that we don't even consider? E-Mail, phone, text, online, calendars, appointments, everyday tasks. Our time, our energies, our focus are regularly being sidetracked. We receive a text and a stress is created in our bodies. Our natural tendency is to want to respond, to take action, to get the job done.

Think back just five years. Were demands placed on your time, bit by bit, at all times of the day, the way that they are not? Probably not. We text while we eat, in the movies, and, horribly, in the car.

We need to take care of ourselves on a daily basis, maintaining our centers despite the continuous disturbances. There are simple, meaningful ways to do this.

Read more about stress at Dr. Weil.

We have very little control over what happens externally, but DO have a great deal of control over what happens inside. The interplay among our bodies, minds, and emotions is always present, and we often do not pay attention to that interplay. Refocusing, becoming more aware, and cultivating that awareness helps us recognize the stressors and what they are doing to us.

Our energy is easily depleted, but it can also be easily replenished. The first step is awareness, or mindfulness. Scheduling mindfulness into our already full days starts out as a seemingly unimportant chore, and morphs into a necessity that we cannot do without.

Start simply. Set a timer for every 30 minutes. 
  • First Ring of Timer:
    Stop whatever you're doing (unless you're driving) and just SIT. Close your eyes and breathe, feeling each inhale and each exhale. Notice where the tightness resides in your body. Use each exhalation to focus on one tight spot, and consciously relax that spot. Keep doing that until you feel your entire body in a more relaxed state. When our bodies are tight, our energy cannot flow smoothly. Getting rid of the tightness not only allows our chi to flow more smoothly and openly, but also gives us an immediate feeling of peace, calm, and focus. We find that we work more efficiently, and the ups and downs of our days do not rock our boats in the way that they used to.

    Practice breathing with Dr. Weil.

    Take about 5 minutes to do this.
  • Second Ring of Timer:
    STAND UP. Notice your posture and bring your head, neck, spine, and hips into alignment. Raise your arms above your head, interlock your fingers, and turn your palms to face the ceiling. Breathe in.

    Breathe out and stretch your whole body and your arms, pressing your palms more towards the ceiling. Breathe in and relax the stretch.

    Breathe out
    again. Gently stretch your body over to one side. Breathe in and come back up. Breathe out, and stretch toward the other side. Breathe in and come back up.

    Breathe out
    and twist to one side, then breathe in and untwist. Breathe out and twist to the other side, then breathe in and untwist. Breathe out and relax your arms down, back to your sides.

    That's just 5 in/out pairs. You have the time!
  • Third Ring of Timer:
    STAND UP
    . Check your posture again.

    Stretch your arms out in front of you and focus on a spot ahead of you, but a bit below eye level. Breathe in. Breathe out, keep your spine straight and bend your knees. How far? As far as you can without raising your heels and without feeling pain in your knees.

    Breathe in. Raise your body by pushing into the floor with your legs rather than by lifting up from your back. Breathe out and release your arms. Do this three times.
  • Fourth Ring of Timer: Do the same thing that you did on the First Ring
This is 4 half-hour-interval mindfulness practices, coupled with some good stretching for your body. Two hours of your day have passed, and you've taken great steps towards calming yourself, focusing your mind, and keeping your body strong and supple. None of the steps takes longer than 6 or 7 minutes. The stretches take less than that, but you'll find that the breathing practice is the greatest challenge.

Take this time for yourself. Gauge how you feel as the days go by. Congratulate yourself for these simple steps toward changing your life.

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