Take some time to do self-care for your nervous system. Your body needs your mind to tell it all is well so you can relax and calm down.
Okay, ten minutes of mindfulness daily would go further, but almost everything will work better if you restart it, even for just one minute, including you. One minute could be the difference between raising your voice and dealing out consequences you realize later were inappropriate. Trust me. I get you. I have a child that makes me want to take away all her things and make her go to community college instead of the excellent University I have been saving for, monthly. She is seven, so obviously, I am over-reacting, but that is what my emotional brain wants to do when she throws a perfect eye roll at me with her hip cocked off to the side during an argument she is trying to have with me. I love her dearly, but she can sometimes be one of my life stressors.
We can’t control our stressors, but we can control our response to them. Stress can be like the weather. It is something we can’t predict or control. When it pours down on us like a hurricane, it seems like there is no escaping or stopping it. Although it may feel like stress is an uncontrollable force that shapes our lives, we have more control over it than we realize.
The more we learn about the brain, the more we understand how our brain changes. The brain has plasticity, meaning connections can be made, unmade, and remade. The brain is moldable, and you can strengthen areas or make them weaker. Mindfulness is a way to strengthen areas that decrease your fear and stress response. We don’t typically hesitate when installing a new software update on our phones but resetting our brain with Mindfulness is not something we reach for when life stressors come knocking. This is because resetting your brain has to become a habit. It needs to become part of how we run our daily lives to take charge of the windstorm of life.
Calming the Hurricane Inside
Mindfulness can also be termed Meditation which is just observing the breath and passively ignoring the emotional thoughts trying to hijack you. I don’t use the term meditation typically as people have a lot of preconceived notions around Meditation, like that it is only practiced by Buddhists or hippies or both etc. Mindfulness or Meditation is just about focusing on a breath and allowing your mind to reset. If you are of a particular religion, you can pray as well. The Rosary that Catholics use can be a form of Meditation as it is a repeated phrase or mantra that helps them focus.
Research has shown that focused breathing is one technique that induces physiological changes termed the relaxation response. Harvard neurologist Sara Lazar compared the brain structures of those who meditate to those who don’t to find what changes occur. The results show that individuals who meditate have more gray matter in their frontal cortex. This means that the part of their brain that controls memory and decision-making has stronger connections than the emotional centers. The frontal cortex can help reign in emotions when it is stronger before you yell at your five-year-old for using her hand instead of toilet paper.
This ability to reign in your emotions is HUGE because about half of what we do daily is automatic, a habit you have created on purpose or by accident. When you are on autopilot, you do not think or question. You are a servant to your unconscious, and your unconscious can be cruel. 80% of the time, when our mind wanders, we think about something more stressful than what we are doing right now.
Mindfulness is a different way to approach what you face day in and day out and feel less anxious about what is coming. Mindfulness is an invitation to approach your stressors with curiosity and kindness. We have spent a lifetime categorizing and judging the actions of others and ourselves. Mindfulness is a request of yourself for you to listen to your feelings without judging them or telling yourself you shouldn’t be feeling them. AND your brain changes when you do this regularly. THAT IS SO COOL! HOW NEATO IS YOUR BRAIN!?
How is Mindfulness going to fit into my life? The short answer isn’t going to fit. Nothing magically starts happening in life, or I would have a six-pack, and my clothes would instantly be put away when they make the journey up my stairs. Mindfulness is a habit, and creating a pattern that becomes a habit is hard. However, this might be the habit that allows you to be calm and collected despite what life, your kids, and what work throws at you. That way, when the poo hits the fan, you can close your eyes, take a deep breath, and state calmly that you have smelled worse, so you got this.
Action Steps: Try taking five deep breaths before you get out of bed three days a week. Set a little reminder to go off as an alarm to remind you of your mindfulness breathing, so it is easier to remember. DO NOT JUDGE YOURSELF when you forget. Don’t use that as an excuse to say Mindfulness doesn’t work for you. Reach out if you want more personalized Mindfulness advice, and I will help you find something that will stick.
Looking Ahead: Sometimes, starting a mindfulness practice that sticks can be all about finding the one that works best for you. Join in next week as I delve into options to find one that ‘gets you.’