Life on Autopilot
Our lives are more hectic than ever, fulfilling our responsibilities at work, making time for our partners, making sure the kids get to the right places at the right times, and staying on top of the nebulous group of activities collectively referred to as “chores” or “errands.” We live on “autopilot,” allowing our circumstances to control us, rather than the other way around.
This reactive lifestyle has us feeling more stressed out than ever, leading to a variety of crummy effects like poor sleep, indigestion, low libido, and expanding waistlines. This chronic state of stress often leads us to turn to vices like junk food, alcohol, or other unhealthy habits as a way to blow off some steam and let loose.
Unfortunately, these short-term fixes don’t do anything to address the underlying stress we’re feeling and are making us sicker every year. Fortunately, there’s a strategy you can start practicing today to eliminate this seemingly never-ending stress and put an end to those unhealthy coping habits – it’s called mindfulness.
What is Mindfulness?
Put simply, mindfulness is focusing on the present, rather than the future or the past. We typically think of “stress” as specific events that happen to us over the course of our lives. Really, though, stress is our response to these events. The events themselves are more accurately referred to as “stressors.”
The events that most often have us feeling on edge, anxious, worried, and under pressure are those that happened in the past or may happen in the future. An effective solution to dealing with these stressors is to focus on the present, or living mindfully.
How Do I Start?
The first step in living mindfully is to notice and name the things going on around you rather than letting events in the past or future occupy your mind.
Imagine, for example, being cut off on the drive home. Rather than stewing over the inconsiderate driver now in front of you, you may instead acknowledge that you were cut off, accept that you are annoyed or frustrated, and then recognize that what happened is now in the past and that the only things in your control right now are your thoughts and feelings.
Also, consider an upcoming deadline at work. Rather than dwell over the reports due on Friday and feel eaten up by the pressure, you may try acknowledging that you are responsible for a task, then focusing on what you can do to perform to the best of your ability. The deadline will come one way or another but how you let it affect your wellbeing is 100% within your control, regardless of what happens when the deadline comes.
Are There Other Strategies?
“Noticing and naming” may sometimes leave you still feeling stressed. If so, try finding a comfortable place to sit, closing your eyes (unless driving), putting your tongue on the roof of your mouth, and breathing deeply through your nose into and out of your belly. Try exhaling for approximately twice as long as you inhale, counting each breath until you get to ten, then repeating the process.
Imagine sinking into your chair, the ground, or wherever you are sitting and focus on your surroundings. What do you hear? What do you smell? How does the chair feel against your body or the floor against your feet?
Look inward. What are your thoughts? What emotions are you experiencing? Your thoughts and emotions are not “good” or “bad” – they just “are.” Start at your head, working down toward your toes, and try to “feel” every part of your body; this is a “body scan.”
What Are You Waiting For?
These strategies all bring your attention away from the past and the future and toward the present. They may be practiced all at once or independently, and may be difficult at first. The results, however, are well worth the initial effort and continued practice. Regardless of the strategy you choose, living more mindfully may end up being your ticket to overcoming stress – leading to more restful sleep, better digestion, a renewed sex drive, and a slimmer waist.
Stop living in the past and future and start loving the present.
About Rob Arthur:
Rob is an online fitness, nutrition, and lifestyle coach living in Lexington, KY. He supports his clients as they achieve not only their body composition goals but also their professional and personal aspirations. Rob can be followed on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook.
Being more mindful is an important part in eliminating stress. As you work on this area of your life, it is important to also consider your nutritional health as well. WellPath offers customized solutions to optimize your health. Learn more about how you can benefit from this and get a trial here.