With the wonderful chaos of the holiday season on the horizon, I think we all could use a special tactic to put in our toolboxes to find clarity and presence-of-mind even amid confusion. Whether it is the mayhem of Black Friday shopping, the stress of preparing an elaborate holiday feast for family and friends, or simply the inner disruption we can feel when travelling and sleeping anywhere but our own bed; this can be a demanding time of year.
Mindful meditation is a self-care stress management method you can practice anywhere that will help ground you and become more resilient when you're feeling anxious or panicky. It is a therapeutic skill that, when learned and applied, can aide with well-being, stress management, anxiety and sleep hygiene.
What is mindful meditation?
To be mindful is to be present, aware of your body and surroundings, without being overwhelmed. When immersed in a stressful and overstimulating environment or situation, we can go into an autopilot mode where we rush through tasks at a feverish pace without thinking about what we're doing. This often leads to over-reactions and over-sensitivity if something doesn't work out as we hoped because our brains are playing catch-up to our frenzied behaviour; something has got to give.
By applying mindful meditation, you bring awareness to your to what you're experiencing through the use of your senses, thoughts, and emotions, activating parts of your brain that normally would be in 'autopilot mode' to prevent or subdue panic from suddenly becoming overwhelmed.
Who is it for?
One of the great things about mindful meditation is that anyone can practice it. There are no restrictions on age, gender, physical ability, or beliefs. We all have the ability to apply this simple practice that is proven to have wide-reaching benefits.
Where can I use it?
You can add this practice to your everyday routine by making simple changes like taking a moment to pause and breathe before running out the door in the morning, setting a calmer and more centred tone to your day, or you can apply it in a safe but stressful situation like being stuck on a crowded subway car for longer than you would like.
When applied correctly, practising mindful meditation puts a little distance between ourselves and our reactions, so our response is appropriate to the situation.
How can I apply this practice?
- Take time for yourself. You don't have to sit in a special meditation pose or be in a designated place; all you need is a little bit of time where you can allow yourself to focus.
- Breathe. It may sound silly, we are always breathing, but concentrate on breathing deep, measured breaths. It will serve as your cadence, calm you down, and connect your mind to your body. If you find your mind starts to wander during your practice, use your breath as your anchor and come back to it.
- Focus on the present moment. You don't have to 'quiet your mind', just concentrate on your breathing and let whatever is going on in the present moment be your focus rather than what you have to do, what you're going to do, what you should have done, what could have been better. Try and let all of that go and tune into yourself, your body and your breathing just in that moment.
- Soften your gaze. It's not necessary to close your eyes, especially if you're standing up and/or you're in public, but all whatever you can see in front of you to be there without focusing on it.
- Engage your body. I like to work from the bottom up. With every breath, imagine that breath running through an area of your body. For example, take a big breath while being mindful of your toes, feet and ankles; when you let it out, this area tends to feel more relaxed. From there, continue working your way up until you reach your head. When you do, let out a big breath and focus on relaxing your entire body. Don't move on from an area until you are able to feel yourself relax on the exhale.
- Keep judgment out of the picture, it's important to stay positive but to also be realistic. If negative or simply irrelevant (to your practice) thoughts pop into your mind, try to ignore them. Many people tend to spiral when they feel overwhelmed and make the situation seem much worse than it is. Do you best not to get carried away in this manner and only concern yourself with what is going on in that moment--not what's going on around you, just with your physical self without judgment or prejudice.
- When you're ready, lift your gaze and slowly return to the moment as it is. Notice the environment around you as it is. Hopefully, in taking some extra time to yourself, you will be able to see the situation ahead of you more clearly and feel grounded and prepared to respond to the situation, whatever it may be appropriate.
Use this tool to prevent holiday burnout, to optimize your well-being on a daily basis, and to help relax and connect the mind to the body so you can get to sleep.
We wish you all a stress-free holiday season :).
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