It’s Monday morning and I’m busy typing an article. I’m almost halfway when my phone bleeps: It’s Yara, sending a reminder to work on texts for a big project we’re working on. Then I remember that I have 4 pressing e-mails I need to answer urgently and a collage I have to put together. All these thoughts keep running through my head, each of them begging for my attention like little three-year-olds asking for candy and I know one thing for sure: my focus is gone.
When you are ambitious and focussed on your career, chances are that your head overflows with information after a long day at the office. When you’re at the office (especially on Monday mornings) you can’t wait to lie in bed, but when you’re finally resting your head on your pillow, all you can think about is work. Even though at 3AM you think that the midnight lists you produce are as beautiful as they are brilliant, in the morning your nightly epiphanies always seem to disappoint. The harsh reality is that 99% of these thoughts about the future are useless, because it has this tendency to always turn out different then you thought it would.
Ah, if only there was a solution to this problem…
Hey, wait for it: there is! It’s called mindfulness and has been based on century-old eastern meditation techniques. Are you wondering what these old and dusty techniques can do for you, a modern woman working a normal, busy job? Well, actually a lot. They help you live in the moment, make you aware of this constant flow of thoughts that you have every single day and helps you master them, instead of these thoughts mastering you.
Here are a few easy exercises that I try to do every day. They can help you achieve inner piece and before you know it, you’re as calm and careless as a Buddhist monk on vacation in the Caribbean:
• As the workday begins, don’t rush to your car or bike to get to work faster. Instead, slightly slow down as you walk, check in with your body and notice any tension. Try and soften it.
• Trying driving to work a little slower today and let red lights be reminders to just notice your breathing. If you take a bike, tram, car or train: don’t rush anywhere. Let other people get out first, don’t squeeze yourself through because you tell yourself you’re in a hurry.
• As you walk to the office, breathe in and out with every three steps. Notice the sensation of walking, it took you over a year to learn how to do this.
• If you sit at a desk, take a few breaths before checking the computer for emails or updates. Install yourself properly, get a drink and put on some relaxing music.
• If possible, maybe once a week, eat by yourself in silence, eat slightly slower and try to chew every bite thoughtfully. Really tune into the sense of taste while eating.
• When walking back to the car/bike/train/metro from work, practice the same way you walked to your car/bike/train/metro.
• No need to ‘rush’ home to ‘relax’, drive slightly slower and experiment with new radio stations, maybe reflect on what you actually did that day. What was positive, what was stuff you would like to do better?
• When getting home, take a few minutes in the car and keep your breath company. Focus on your body and notice if it is tense. If so, try to soften those muscles by breathing in and out of them, with awareness, and just letting them be.
Try to incorporate these steps in your daily routine and you’ll see: it will reduce stress remarkably (for me, it really does). Careful though, it can change your life!
What do you do to stay in the moment and not let your thoughts run wild? Do you have little tricks to reduce your stress levels?
(Source Forbes, Image Tumblr, text Marijn)