Stillness is your friend

According to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), in 2017/18, 595,000 people in the UK reported work-related stress at a level they believed was making them ill. That’s 40% of all work-related illness.

Psychological problems, including stress, anxiety and depression are behind one in five visits to a GP.

Stress symptoms include a pounding heart or palpitations, a dry mouth, headaches, insomnia, panic attacks, aches and pains and loss of appetite for food and sex.  Some pressure at work can be motivating, but when it becomes excessive, it can eventually lead to work-related stress.

Most people who suffer with high levels of stress have problems saying no to others and yes to themselves.  A lot of people I work with think they have no choice but to overwork and find themselves overcommitting, people-pleasing and sabotaging their own passions and hobbies.

If you are one of these people, then the good news is there are some practical steps you can start to take today:

  1. Practice saying no more often.  This can be tricky, so start small and build up to the one person you find it hardest to say no to. Our pseudo self-esteem can often convince us that we will become better liked or we will be rewarded for this behaviour.  Our true self esteem must come from inside.
  2. Breathe.  Your brain needs oxygen to function properly. You don’t need to sit cross legged and start chanting, instead breathe in for the count of 5 and out for the count of 8.  Do this 5 times, and then notice how you feel.
  3. Look up from your mobile phone and laptops more often. Take time to appreciate the world around you.  Take delight in the air on your skin, the warmth of the sunshine, the fact you are alive and able to see. It’s the small things that matter. 
  4. Take yourself out on a date. That’s right a date – alone. Treat yourself like you would a good friend. Time alone allows the creativity in all us to flow again. Do something just for the fun of it. Try it and see what happens – you might actually start liking yourself again.
  5. See if you can create time to slow down whilst you are eating.  Notice the smell and textures before racing to devour your food and move onto the next job.  Consider who grew some of the food and how it has been transported to your plate. Not forgetting that nature will have played a huge part in its existence. Practice some gratitude for the abundance of the food choices many of us have.
  6. Create more time to be still and allow there to be spaces in your diary.  You could start by giving yourself an hour a week. Go on, block it out, and see what you might like to do when it arrives. No planning, just see what happens. And if you find this as hard as I did, mark it down as CPD ☺
  7. Be kind to yourself.  It all starts with you.  By offering yourself kindness, you will be surprised to see how this can spread to random acts of kindness to others. 
  8. Communicate your limits. You are not a superhero and having your ego gently rubbed by others pouring over ‘how do you manage it all?’ is not a great place to start. Be clear with your boundaries and be honest with yourself about what you will and won’t do.

Becoming more mindful by slowing down and noticing the present moment can have huge effects in your work and home life.  Negative aspects of our work can easily transfer to the rest of our lives and people closest to us and vice versa.  So next time you notice you are feeling rushed and anxious, take a breath, and check-in, you might just be about to repeat a pattern that is causing you unnecessary stress.

remarkable minds

What is mindfulness?

Our busy lives can sometimes take over. There doesn’t seem to be enough time to do all the things we need to, and everything feels like it has to be done in a rush. Everyday. It can make us feel we’re losing who we are. And disconnected from the world around us. 

Mindfulness is the practice of paying attention to the present. It is being aware of our own feelings and thoughts. Mindfulness is being attentive to what’s happening, to what we’re doing and how we’re feeling. Mindfulness is accepting it all without judgement. But with kindness. 

What are the benefits of mindfulness?

Mindfulness can result in greater self-awareness and allows us to be kind to ourselves. Mindfulness encourages us to release our natural curiosity about how our minds work. Being mindful invites us to experience life with warmth and compassion, to ourselves and others. Mindfulness can help us understand ourselves better and help us enjoy life more. It enables us to experience feelings of contentment, empathy for others and resilience in our own lives.

By becoming more mindful we start to take notice and experience things that we may previously have taken for granted – we begin to take pleasure in the everyday. By being mindful, we start to reconnect with our own creativity and start to feel inspired more by the natural energy and joy in the world around us.

Mindfulness allows us to check and regulate our thoughts and emotions. And not to overreact or feel overwhelmed by what’s going on around us. Mindfulness teaches us to respond with greater understanding and flexibility. 

The science behind mindfulness

Scientific research into mindfulness is growing at an exceptional rate since the year 2000. Leading institutions around the world, including Oxford, Cambridge, UCLA, Stanford and Harvard have all published a myriad of papers reporting beneficial effects of mindfulness training. Even if practiced for just 30 minutes a day mindfulness can have a profound impact on our stress levels, our physical health and our emotional well-being. 

Stress can have a dramatic impact on us, from how our bodies function and how we experience life. Stress can distract us from enjoying our lives. And it can get in the way of attempting to sort out the very issues causing it. Science confirms that stress can contribute to physical illness and unwelcome health conditions. So, dealing with stress is important. 

When we develop our ability to be present, we also develop a sense of self-awareness. Awareness of our feelings, thoughts and emotions. We learn to recognise the stress triggers. And to respond with effective strategies sooner. 

How does mindfulness have such a beneficial impact?

Our brain is adaptable to change if we give it the opportunity. Research has shown that consistent mindfulness training can demonstrate powerful changes in the brain. Changes that lead to growth of key areas associated with how we regulate our emotions and how we concentrate. And changes that reduce the density of the region of the brain associated with the stress response, fear and anxiety. 

How to practice mindful meditation

We are all able to be present and mindful already. Mindfulness doesn’t need us to change who we are. The first step towards mindfulness is taking notice of your thoughts and feelings. Pay attention to the sounds and sensations of your breathing. And bring your attention back to it whenever your mind starts to wander. 

At the beginning, your mind will undoubtedly start to wander as we are more used to thinking of a string of things in rapid succession. We are so often lost in sadness, anger or unresolved grief and other issues.  We worry about the past and we worry about the future. It can feel as if you’ll never get the hang of slowing those thoughts and your mind down. 

But with patience and regular training, our minds can learn to be calmer. Being mindful doesn’t mean you switch off those racing thoughts or feelings. Being mindful means learning how to observe them without judgement. And ultimately, understanding them better too. 

You can learn mindfulness on your own. And mindfulness will be more readily available to you the more you practice. Remember that mindfulness is the same as learning any other skill. It can take time. But that’s ok, there’s no rush. Think of learning mindfulness as a journey. And keep practicing.

The mindfulness journey can be easier with a facilitator

That’s where I come in. Whether you’re a beginner, or have been practicing mindfulness for years or need peer to peer supervision, I can guide you to access a greater depth in your mindfulness practice.

Find out how we could work together