My mother is on the phone and I am reading a work email at the same time. A colleague is asking me for help with a problem and I’m watching the clock ticking ever closer to six o’clock whilst mentally making plans for the evening. When that big hand hits the top of its unusually speedy arc I must fly out the door, dash round the supermarket, get home, clean, cook and make myself look presentable before guests arrive.
Does any of this sound familiar?
The result of my mad dash is that I don’t listen properly to my mother. I send the work email with spelling mistakes and the wrong attachment. I ‘m unable to help out my team member properly and forget a vital ingredient at the supermarket. Then upon my friend’s arrival it takes me at least 30 minutes to calm down and take in what she’s actually saying to me.
Now some of that must sound familiar?
We all feel pressure from our many commitments and are becoming super multi-taskers in our attempts to fulfil them. But there always seems to be just one last thing to do before we’re finished and slightly too little time to whittle our to-do lists down to a manageable size. In a bid to keep all the balls in the air and let nobody down we end up feeling frazzled, insufficient and often overwhelmed.
With this frazzled feeling and weight of insufficiency bearing down on me I stumbled upon a mindfulness class at my yoga centre. The poster promised reduced stress and increased happiness – I signed up there and then!
What I learnt on this mindfulness course wasn’t rocket science and wasn’t a deep hidden secret, in fact you’re probably aware of it yourself already. I was simply taught that in our modern, hectic, frantic, demanding lives we rarely live in the here and now.
We’re all becoming world class multi-taskers so while we’re eating, we’re also reading our emails. Whilst we’re talking on the phone we’re also watching television. While we’re showering we’re worrying about work. This means that we aren’t able to experience the present moment because we’re too busy focussing on events in the future or events in the past.
So put simply, if we aren’t aware of what we’re doing in the present moment how on earth can we expect to enjoy it to the full?
Does this sound like a nice ideal for people who have the luxury of time to sit around cross legged? Don’t worry, mindfulness doesn’t require pristine white Lycra outfits, sitting on mountains or having to walking around in a trance. It’s about simply about connecting with the here and now, experiencing it fully and honestly, it’s about knowing what you’re feeling.
We’re all busy, and would love to have an extra half hour a day to focus on just ourselves but for many of us this isn’t a realistic goal. So here a few recommendations as to how you could incorporate just a little mindfulness into a manic day to help ease stress:
Whilst the kettle boils notice how you’re feeling, are you stressed? Hungry? Tired? Happy? Excited? or just neutral. Don’t worry about changing ‘negative’ moods, you’re not aiming to change anything – just concentrate on noticing how you are right here and right now.
Answering the phone
When your phone rings, get into the habit of taking a deep breath before you answer. Let it ring one or two rings more than usual and use this time to concentrate on breathing down into your diaphragm. Recognise how your breathing pattern was before you made the conscious effort to slow it down.
Eating at our desk or in front of the television is now becoming the norm, but it takes our attention away from one of the most important tasks we do daily, that of giving our bodies the energy they need to perform. Make a point of regularly eating a meal or snack without other distractions. Eat for the pleasure of eating, notice the tastes and smell of your food, enjoy these moments for what they are.
Take one daily activity such as showering, brushing your teeth or even washing up and when you do this activity, do this alone. Don’t use it to think about work, worry about the family or plan the rest of the day, just be in the moment. Notice what you’re doing and recognise the small pleasures that even the least pleasant of tasks can hold.
I’m not promising you that once you’ve followed these steps you’ll be a candidate for the next dali lama, that you’ll never feel frazzled or overwhelmed. But just practising these simple exercises regularly and over time will allow you not only to experience the present moment fully, but provide you with a little space to allow you to deal with the next item on your to do list with a little more calm and clarity.
About the Author: Natalie Smith, a CIM qualified marketing professional, is an Account Manager at Blaze Communication where she helps clients to build brands, increase sales, excite customers and communicate more effectively. She regularly blogs about marketing on the Blaze Blog (http://blog.blazecommunication.com) and can be found twittering on at @Blaze_Group.