I’m not going to lie to you: I am really, really stressed out right now.
Like, I’m so stressed out that, if I don’t watch it, I might find myself close to tears, crying, “I can’t do it all!” right in the middle of my day.
You see, I am a mother of three young children. I live in a foreign country, with no family anywhere close to me. My husband is also gone during the week. I am in graduate school for psychology and commute one hour each way. And here’s a little bit of trivia for you: did you know that schools here are out at 1:15pm?
Yep. You read that right. Schools are finito at 1:15pm. And if you’re lucky enough to get your child in afterschool care, it only goes until 4pm. Unless it’s Friday; then it shuts down at 3pm. Are you getting the picture by now? I’m a multitasking wonder woman. (But aren’t we all?)
All this juggling can sure leave a woman frazzled.
If you’ve read my blog on mindfulness, you might be thinking, “How is it possible for you to be stressed out and frazzled if you practice mindfulness?”
The thing is, mindfulness doesn’t take stress away, but rather it helps you accept it. Mindfulness is a practice of accepting your thoughts, emotions and those of your environment without judgment.
If you are mindful, is it even possible to feel stressed out? Certainly! But you can manage your stress levels more easily if you practice mindfulness.
Others often ask, “To manage a stressful life, mindfulness helps. But how do you find the time to practice mindfulness when you’re so busy?”
Believe me, friends, you CAN find the time! Here are 8 fast and simple ways to practice mindfulness, even when you are crazy-busy:
1. Write it all down
I often feel like I am juggling 100 balls. And they are all different sizes and weights. If you’ve ever juggled before, you know that it is very difficult to juggle balls of varying sizes.
In order to get into a rhythm, you need the physics to work smoothly. Throw a tiny ball or a big heavy ball into the mix, and you’ll inevitably drop something.
In real life, I am always juggling a bunch of balls. But usually I feel like I’m in a rhythm. I’ve got my schedule, my kids’ schedules, housework, etc. Things usually go smoothly, even if it is somewhat stressful at times. And then? Wham! A kid gets sick and has to stay home, a huge bill comes in that you don’t know how to pay for, your boss just slammed an unexpected deadline on your desk, the dryer breaks (sometimes all at once!).
In other words, a ball just got thrown into the juggling mix that did not fit into the rhythm.
It throws me off my rocker sometimes. Suddenly I find myself asking how in the world will I get everything done? When I’m feeling totally overwhelmed by all of my responsibilities, I start making a list. I write down every single to-do that I can possibly think of. I know this is not exactly innovative, and it isn’t an official mindfulness practice, but I can assure you that writing everything down will help clear your mind of all the stress.
And if you’re pulling out your smart phone to-do apps, forget it. When I say write it all down, I actually mean the old-fashioned way. There’s something about the physical process of writing it all down with your hand that helps to get it out of your mind.
2. Brain dump
Another trick to help clear you mind is to write down all of your thoughts without stopping. Write until you fill three pages! Write whatever comes to your mind. Even if you write, “I don’t know what to write” 10 times, keep writing. You’ll be surprised at all the worries or thoughts that will come out on paper. It is an invaluable tool to help clear your mind, and start your day out peacefully and with purpose.
Even if you have no time to go to yoga class, you can still use breathing techniques to help calm and clear you mind. Simply doing breathing techniques can give you energy, relax you, and help you feel more mindful throughout your day, regardless of how busy you are. In fact, you can do this one wherever you are.
Stuck in a traffic jam? Do some breathing exercises! Sitting across someone who is horribly irritating? Breathe! Sitting in a noisy cubicle at work? Breathe! Getting ready to meet your child’s teacher about his behavior? Do some breathing exercises while you’re sitting in the hall waiting!
There are all kinds of different breathing you can try, for instance:
- Breath of Fire: breathe equal amounts of air in and out of your nose. Use your diaphragm to push the air out of your nose forcefully and let the air naturally flow back in through your nose. This kind of breathing technique comes from the kundalini yoga tradition and has so many benefits, including detoxification and increased energy.
- Deep long breathing: This one can literally be done anywhere, and no one will even notice! Just breathe deeply in and out. Long deep breaths through your nose! This kind of breathing is pretty intuitive; I’m sure I’m not telling you something new here, but it is amazing how few people actually use this technique during their daily routine. Make sure you do this breathing technique with focused awareness. In other words, you can still do other things, but silently remind yourself that you are indeed breathing. It’s quite simple.
4. Body scan
This is a classic mindfulness technique that is surprisingly easy. It involves simply placing your attention on certain parts of your body.
First start noticing your feet, moving slowly up your body to the top of your head. You can do this anywhere too! Normally you are lying down, under a blanket, much like you do at the end of a yoga course.
But I’m here to tell you: you can do a body scan while you are sitting in the car! You don’t have to have a lot of extra time. Just silently tell yourself you are feeling your toes right now. Bring your awareness to your toes. Notice how they feel. Then move upwards.
5. Push pause
Simply put: when you feel overwhelmed by life, stop!
Stop what you’re doing and pause life for a minute. This might sound too simple to be effective, but, again, it’s surprising how many people do not just pause for a few minutes.
Take a step back, stop moving, and stop writing that list of to-dos, stop thinking, and just be. You can pause anywhere and anytime.
When your kids are fighting with each other, you can actually pause. No one even has to notice. Realize that YOU can just pause and do NOTHING. Take a step back and notice the situation from an emotional distance. Silently notice who is in the room, what they are wearing, saying or doing. Notice the temperature of the room. Notice your own feelings, thoughts and sensations. Just pause and observe.
When you do, many things don’t feel so stressful or even important. In fact, if you pause, step back and watch your kids fighting, you might even find it funny! Because when you approach a stressful situation from a neutral, mindful perspective, you can release all thoughts, attachments and judgments swirling around your head and see the situation for what it is.
You’ll find that most stressful situations in our lives are really not so bad. Sometimes we get stuck in the stress of our lives and can see the forest for the trees. Pausing helps us see things for what they are and detaches our emotions from them.
Stretching will provide energy and oxygen to your body, increasing blood flow, and giving you much needed vitality when you’re stressed.
I know this is also nothing new, but so many people don’t think to stretch throughout the day. They get sucked into school drop off, pick up, violin lessons, homework, cleaning, making sure they don’t forget someone’s birthday, organizing schedules, and your own daytime job. It’s exhausting and easy to forget to be mindful of your own body.
When you feel like your brain is going to pop, stretch! You can even do this at your desk. Just take five minutes or less to stretch your arms, your neck, and your legs. You’ll feel rejuvenated!
7. Look up!
Do you sometimes feel like you just can’t get it all done? Do you feel like you’re on a hamster wheel? Do you go through the day with your heart beating slightly faster than it probably should?
Well, here’s another simple technique to slow down for a moment: stop whatever you’re doing and look up. Yes, literally look up!
If you’re inside, then step outside for a second and look up at the sky. Just look up and notice the clouds floating by. Notice their shapes. Appreciate the color of the sky, whether it is a brilliant blue or smooth gray. Look at the trees and be thankful that they are there to give us oxygen. Notice the leaves and the intricate branches that become thinner as they stretch into the sky.
Just try it. You’ll feel much better.
8. Straighten up!
Recent scientific studies show that body posture can actually affect your mood. Yep. Mom was right: don’t slouch! When you slouch, it negatively affects your ability to concentrate, and it makes you feel tired, lethargic, makes you feel just plain yucky. So sit up straight! It will literally trick your brain into feel happier, more focused, and more confident!
Sometimes the best things are very simple. So there you have it. No excuses!
Use this list as a handy toolbox to get you through your hectic, multitasking day, without having to really slow down much. Because, as we all know, we moms aren’t allowed to drop a ball! Let me know how these techniques work for you!