Overwhelmed has become a common state of being for myself and for many these days.
Instead of saying “Hi! How are you? What a beautiful day!”, we go “Hi! How are you? I'm so tired/busy/stressed”. I was in that self-created prison of eternal busyness the last eight years till my body burnt out and broke down over a year ago. It was a rude wake-up call to me, who had always prided myself as an “energizer bunny” living every aspect of my life to the fullest. Like an insidious disease, chronic fatigue infiltrated every pore of my being and took control over my body and ultimately my life. Almost overnight, I went from the life-of-every-party, an avid traveler and an active Women's Only group consul to a virtual recluse. The drastic change shocked everyone in my extensive social network as I struggled to identify with this new lifeless person I've become.
Foolishly I resisted the situation and pushed my body harder. That set me back even further backwards in the recovery process and I learned the hard way that if I continued racing through life, I would have completely missed the beauty of the journey. In other words, I would have missed the point of being alive. With this realisation, I began working on healing myself, starting with learning to slow down and live mindfully. I found the below six ways simple yet effective for me and I hope they would benefit the readers of SimpleReminders.com too.
In each moment, awake our five senses and paint the scene in words
How often do we go through the motion of certain life routines absentmindedly? I would guess it's as high as 40-70% of each day. No single day is the same. Notice what's new in each moment even if it's something familiar. Employ our five senses and describe the scene like we would as a writer. What do we see? What do we smell? What do we hear? What do we feel? Do this when walking down the street we always take. Pay attention to where we are and what's unique about that very moment. I learned this exercise via my creative writing class and found it immensely effective in channelling my spirit to the present moment.
Focus on one task at a time
Time slows down when we're fully immersed in an activity, instead of multi-tasking. This state is called “flow”and when one is in it, he/she experiences an energised focus, a complete engagement and spontaneous joy or even rapture in the activity. My lack of patience often drives me to switch between tasks and at the end of each multi-tasking session, I would find myself frazzled like a mad woman. For a long time, I used to cook, wash the dishes, listen to podcasts and reply text messages all at the same time. Now that I've stopped and at each point focus on either cooking or washing, I find myself breathing better and enjoying the activity more. What a difference to my wellbeing this tiny change makes!
Relish the silence and practice deep belly breathing
Every so often we overcomplicate life by making the simple act of relaxation a monumental task! We allow ourselves to unwind only when we're finally in paradisiacal destinations, forgetting that every moment is an opportunity to release the tension in us. Here's a simple deep belly breathing practice we can do anywhere. Close our eyes. Inhale through our nose to a mental count to four. Feel our belly expand. Hold our breath for a count of seven. Now exhale through our mouth to a count of eight and feel our belly contract in the process. I do this at my desk, during my commute and in the restaurants waiting for my food, basically bringing my inner paradise to virtually everywhere.
Enjoy “cloudporn” whenever and wherever possible
How often do we walk with our nose buried in our phone or our mind absorbed by the items on our to-do list? For the majority of us these days, we move from one “box” to another – our home to our car/the bus/the train to our office to a bar or restaurant and repeat. Whenever possible, relish the opportunities in our day to enjoy the “cloudporn” and fresh air. Save mental images of the picturesque sky and recall them whenever we need a moment of calm. I started doing this six months ago and since then it kept me grounded countless times when I was hijacked by negative emotions.
Walk as if your feet is kissing the floor
We are wired to think that time spent waiting in commute is a waste of life. We develop the reflex of chasing after the bus/train or the green light, even when we're not in a rush to get somewhere. For a change, try walking as if our feet is kissing the floor! This inspiration came from the Zen master Thich Nhat Hanh. Engage in every single step like we would in a sweet kiss with someone we love. As we do this, we'll find the journey becomes as rewarding and joyful as reaching the destination. I found myself smiling to myself whenever I practice this and the wonderful thing is people on the streets would smile back at me. What a bonus!
Savour each meal like it's a feast
Every meal is an occasion to not only nourish the body but also the soul. How often do we find ourselves racing through a meal or eat while watching TV or reading a book? For our next meal, make it a point to be fully present with our meal. Chew our food, feel the texture and appreciate the flavours, colours and presentation of the dish. Whenever I savour my meal instead of mindlessly chomping it down, I derive so much satisfaction from the meal and by saving the movie for after the meal instead of eating and watching at the same time, I enjoy the film a lot more than I would with my divided attention. It's certainly a double win.