I’m in my kitchen. The water bottles need refilling, snacks and lunches need to be made, my daughters are fighting over an item of clothing, my son won’t put on ANY clothing, the dog is howling to get walked, and I have a meeting immediately after drop-off (if I ever make it to drop off on time). This is not a busy morning, it’s every morning…and it’s at this point that I know I need to take a little time out and meditate. Yes, meditate!
You might be thinking, meditate? I am just trying to get through the day here, lady. Who has time for this? Well, YOU do. If you care about your well-being, you simply do. I am not telling you to learn Sanskrit and take two hours of your day to get to a yoga class (but if you want to and do, more power to you, Dharma!). I am talking very realistic baby steps here. Your day is busy, I get it. But, you can cut stress fast by doing one of these things:
1. Envision a day filled with success. Instead of JUMPING out of bed and beginning your day like a maniac, spend a few moments envisioning how your day will go. It creates a sense of calm to visualize a good meeting, a completed project, a nice lunch, a successful whatever.
2. Make your bedroom a device-free zone. I charge my phone in another room and use an old school alarm with a gentle sound to wake up in the morning. Using your phone as an alarm invites you to check your e-mail and look at Facebook before you have even hugged your partner or your children (or had time for #1)!
3. Have your own gratitude mantra. Close your eyes, put your hand on your heart, and breathe, thinking (or saying out loud): “Today I am thankful for (insert 5 things on each exhalation). Or simply say, “I am loved, I am cared for.” This is your mantra to create. What will it be? These small reminders of all I am grateful for relaxes me and puts me in a positive frame of mind.
4. Take a walk (or go for a run). You can fit this one into free pockets of your day: Walk to lunch from your office, or jog around a nearby track. Every form of exercise is an automatic meditation and stress reliever. Pay attention to your muscles working, focus on the sounds of nature (birds, leaves crunching underfoot, etc.), and listen to your breath. This helps me clear my mind, and/or think through/organize the rest of my day.
5. Take a moment to just breathe. Nothing fancy needed for this one. Just STOP whatever you are doing, SHUT your eyes (gently), and then BREATHE! Inhale deeply, exhale deeply, inhale/exhale for at least 10 breaths. Imagine all of the stress and mental clutter being released from your body with each exhalation.
6. Focus on (and enjoy) everyday chores. When you’re cutting up the vegetables for dinner, for example, go a little slower, smell the ingredients, and pay attention to what you are doing. We do too much on auto-pilot. Taking a few moments to focus on a simple task at hand can make it more pleasurable.
7. Shower (or exfoliate) your stress away. Instead of rushing through your shower, pay attention to the smell of the soap, as well as the temperature and trickle of water running over your head, through your hair, and down your back. When I exfoliate dead skin cells away I imagine my stressors going down the drain too. (And yes — lock the door if you can!)
8. Say things in a different way. I’ve realized that when I say “I GET to do my work” or “I GET to exercise” (instead of “I have to do this and need to do that”), I feel much happier and more blessed.
9. PLAY with your kids. Pretend you are that precious little free-spirited kid again! Spend a few minutes a day playing like you did as a kid with your automatic play date(s) — your child(ren)! I sometimes forget that these little people don’t just need food, shelter and papers signed, they need goofy, old-fashioned fun. I am always out of my head once I let go and PLAY with my mini-mes, and I treasure this time with them (I know that they will grow up when I am not looking!).
9. Embrace the moments. Let’s not FAST-FORWARD our lives, but really star in our blockbuster documentary. Hit RECORD often (in your brain or on your device). But, try not to miss it. There are mom-ents all day long to hold onto just a second or two longer. A mispronunciation of a word from a toddler’s mouth, a nice gesture witnessed from your child, a belly laugh that is simply delightful to your ears. Hold it an extra second or two because the stress moments are gonna take CENTER stage if you let them. In fact, one is probably right around the corner.
10. Dance it out for three minutes. I am not talking about the moves you do at a wedding or bar mitzvah. I am talking about letting yourself freak out. C’mon try it! When was the last time you did this? When your bedroom wall had a poster of NKOTB or Backstreet Boys on it? It is beyond meditative, because dancing is primal and spiritual and music and movement change your state of mind. Go ahead and pick your anthem and rock out like no one is watching, girl!
11. Do two minutes of EFT Tapping — a form of acupressure based on traditional acupuncture to treat physical and emotional ailments, but without the needles. Simply tap with the fingertips on your head, hands, face, and chest while you think about your specific problems and voice positive affirmations. (I highly recommend The Tapping Solution by Nick Ortner if you want to learn more.)
12. Write down whatever is bothering you — then burn it. Or shred it (safer)! Whatever is stressing you will seem a little less intense once you write it down. Either write a letter to someone driving you nuts, or write down what is troubling you. Then, when all emotions are on the paper, burn it, shred it, or bury it in the ground. It symbolically lets things go without tearing another human being to pieces.
13. Smile and laugh for two minutes – even if you are forcing it. It’s the old “fake it till you make it” and it works! I once went to a laughing class (I kid you not, there is such a thing!) and we had to force laughter. At first it was truly the corniest thing I ever signed on for, but after three minutes I was literally falling down laughing and almost peed in my pants. It’s contagious. Try it, please!
When you feel like you are getting really anxious, and the weight of the world is pressing on your shoulders, I hope you will try one of these tips. This is your life after all, so you get to write the script and make it a TWO THUMBS UP! And, if you have tried them all and have been unsuccessful, just go to the liquor cabinet and pour yourself a stiff vodka because that’s all I’ve got! Just kidding (sort of).
Remember that being anxious doesn’t help whatever you have to get done, ever. If you feel you have anxiety that runs deeper than regular mommy issues (which can be pret-ty hefty), please consult a professional. Love and best of luck!