Overcoming Stress Through Mindful Presence
I see you. Your heart’s desire is to be an excellent partner, and mother, as well as to serve the people you work for with the greatest level of care. Each week, you thoughtfully set out the tasks you will need to accomplish, and you check them off with a sense of duty and gladness. But, at the end of the day, your mind is still reeling with conversations that could have gone better, and worries about the heavy load you must carry tomorrow along with the weight of uncertainty about how it will all come out. It is hard to fall asleep. And, you do not feel quite rested when you wake up.
But, when the alarm goes off, you sit up, rub your tender neck a bit, and get on with the day. Determination. That’s what keeps you going.
I see you, putting on that smile for everyone you encounter, but inside you are just. so. tired. You keep telling yourself only ‘x’ number of days until (insert the break you’re looking forward to). And, the tasks of the day become something to get through with an eventual light at the end of the tunnel.
You are so strong. You are so giving. You are exhausted. And, if tears are welling up a little as you read this, then be glad, friend – you are recognizing your own humanity. Maybe this way of living has become so ingrained in your very being that a different way of living seems impossible.
I’m not here to teach you how to reduce your workload, or how to get more done in less time. That advice is out there, and it’s a dime a dozen, if you ask me. I’m here to remind you that all of the good stuff – all the peace and joy that you are longing for only exists now because “now” is the only place you ever are. Read that again.
Peace and joy are not waiting for you in that ever-elusive light at the end of the tunnel. They are available to you in this present moment, you just have to be here for them. You can learn to savor life rather than forge through it. You can marvel at the sunset as you sit in traffic, and you can use the trip in the elevator to offer a kind word to a stranger. Instead of treating these precious minutes as something to get through, embrace them. More tears? Good. Now look around. What do you have to be grateful for in this very moment? Are you safe? Fed? Loved by someone? Life may not be perfect, and sometimes it’s quite hard, but this very moment is good, isn’t it?
The hardest part is shifting your habits of thinking and being. You have spent so long just getting through that list. How do you transition from checking the boxes to being fully present for each task?
Well, practice is really the only way. And, I’ll warn you, you probably will not be very good at first. But, little by little, you can learn to become more present and live in the beauty of each moment. The awareness that you have not been fully here is really the first step.
Here are a few simple mindfulness exercises that you can try. Choose one to add into your daily routine, or simply to turn to when you realize your thoughts are off in “to-do” land while your body, peace, and joy are in “now.”
Be gentle with yourself as you work to change. I hope these thoughts are helpful and I would love to hear from you if they are. Drop me a line anytime at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Breath Meditation: Imagine that your breath is like an anchor, tying you down to this present moment. You always have it with you, so you can easily pause and place all of your attention on it to return to “now.” Try closing your eyes and breathing in for five counts, out for five counts. Repeat this exercise five more times, or more if needed.
Engage Your Senses: When you notice that your thoughts are carrying you away, you can return to the present by engaging your senses. You can engage your senses however you choose, but here are a few ideas: get yourself some coffee or tea and take in the scent before each sip, take a few minutes to step outside and feel the breeze on your skin, watch the squirrels or birds for a bit, listen to the sounds around you.
Send Love: Take just a minute to think about a person you care about. Feel love in your heart for them, and send that love to them through your thoughts or prayers. (note: sometimes the person who needs your love is you)
Gratitude: Notice something or someone that you are grateful for. Pause and reflect on that gratitude for ten seconds or more, this will allow that thankfulness and joy to make an imprint on your brain. This can be a lovely practice to end each day with, and many people enjoy writing these things down.
Kendra Vita, MS, LPC intern
Supervised by Susan Denny, MS, LPC-S
Kendra Vita is a professional counselor and neurofeedback therapist in San Antonio. Her approach focuses on helping adults overcome stress and enjoy their lives. Outside of counseling, she enjoys reading, hiking, and going to concerts. But, her greatest joy is her family. She and her husband, West, have four incredible children who amaze them regularly. You can learn more about Kendra and her work at www.kendravita.com