April is Stress Awareness Month. We all suffer from stress from time to time. Learning your stress triggers and responses is really helpful.
Here’s some useful questions that can help you manage your stress:
Q. How do you know you are getting stressed?
Q. Where do you feel stress in your body?
Q. What happens when your stress levels get high?
Q. Do you know how to reduce your stress?
Having self care activities written down and ready to go is really helpful. When we are stressed we don’t think clearly. So writing down things that work to reduce your stress really helps when you need it the most.
Things that might help:
Meditation (even 5 minutes can make a difference)
Exercise e.g. walking in nature
Having a relaxing bath
It is best to counter stress before it gets too bad. So learn to recognise the signs that you are getting stressed and take some positive actions to reduce it. What works for one person won’t necessarily work for you. So find out what works best for you and do that!
If you’d like some help reducing your stress, I’d love to help. I have helped clients for almost 20 years and have lots of experience and different tools to draw on.
Many of us know the benefits of mindfulness but we have such busy lives that it feels like we never have enough time. If that sounds familiar then this meditation is for you. Most people can manage to find the time to practice this one. It’s called the Breathing Space meditation and it can be as short as just 3 minutes!
3 Minute Breathing Space
Firstly, make a conscious change to your posture. Sit upright with your back straight but not stiff. Close your eyes if that feels ok.
Ask yourself what’s going on in your mind and body right now?
What thoughts are present?
What feelings are here?
Become aware of any sensations in the body.
Don’t try to change anything. Just be aware of what is already here. Try not to judge anything, just bring your kind attention to whatever is here, right now.
Now, become aware of your breathing. Narrow your attention to just the sensations of your breathing.
See if you can feel your breath moving in your abdomen.
Try and notice the full inhalation and the full exhalation.
If your mind wanders (as it naturally will), just gently bring it back to your breath. Coming in and going out.
Finally, expand the focus of awareness now to take in your whole body. As if your whole body was breathing.
Become aware of your posture, any sensations on surface of your skin and deeper in your body.
Holding in awareness all the sensations in your body and breath just as they are.
Coming home to your body, coming home to this moment.
As best you can, bring this expanded awareness to the rest of your day.
Here’s my recorded version if you’d like to try it:
The Autumn Equinox this year happened on Sunday 23rd September at 2.54am (BST). This is of course in the Northern hemisphere. In the Southern hemisphere it was the Spring (or vernal) equinox. So it means that it’s officially Autumn now. Autumn is a time of transition, where the leaves change colour and fall. The days become equal with the night and the temperature starts to drop. It is a good time of year to see if you need to make any changes in your life too.
Autumn is one of my favourite times of the year and I was due to attend a Woodland Mindfulness retreat, but thanks to the storm it got cancelled. I was very disappointed as I had been looking forward to it for ages. However, I glad I wasn’t in a tent when the rain and wind were lashing against my windows over the weekend! I did some tapping to help myself deal with the disappointment and decided I didn’t just want it to be an ‘ordinary’ weekend, so I had a home retreat instead.
I went for a long walk on the Friday and was mindful of the gorgeous Autumn colours. I listened to the wind, the birds and insects as they went about their business. As I walked, I also tuned in to the felt senses of my body. Feeling my feet hitting the ground, the muscles of my legs moving and the beating of my heart. I brought mindful awareness to my thoughts and emotions as they arose. When I got home I spent time writing in my journal and doing some mindful colouring in. I did several meditations throughout the day and pampered myself a bit.
Yoga Nidra Day
On the Saturday I went to a Yoga day celebrating the Autumn equinox. We did some gentle yoga and a couple of yoga nidra sessions. Yoga nidra means sleep – a very relaxing type of meditation. We laid on our mats, with blankets under our heads, bolsters under our knees and wrapped ourselves in several warm blankets. Once we were warm and snuggly our lovely teacher Fiona led us on a journey through our body and into a deep state of relaxation. We dined on delicious vegan food and in the afternoon we braved the wind and rain and foraged for leaves, berries and plants to make a beautiful Mandala. I loved doing that and the finished Mandala looked gorgeous.
The day was very nurturing and insightful – just what I needed. It reminded me of the importance of self-care. This is a topic very dear to my heart and one I talk about a lot to my clients.
We cannot keep on keeping on without taking care of ourselves. Nature is starting to slow down, so I encourage you to take some time out and look after you this Autumn. Spend some time thinking about what changes you need to make in your life:
Do you need to slow down too?
Do you need to take care of yourself more?
Do you need to let go of something?
I would be happy to help you on your self-care journey. Do get in touch if you would like some help.
Eating mindfully is a great way to eat more healthily. Think about it. If you eat on the go, grabbing what is convenient and quick, you will often be eating unhealthily. If you eat quickly at your desk whilst working, you will definitely be eating non-mindfully. You will be more likely to overeat or eat unhealthy snacks when you’re not paying attention. You may even reach the end of the packet of crisps and realise you haven’t even tasted them!
Eating mindfully is an easy way to eat more healthily. Make some time to make yourself a healthy, nutritious lunch. Or if you are really pressed for time, grab yourself a ready made salad or sandwich. Spend some time choosing a healthier option.
If you can, get away from your desk (even if it’s just for 10 minutes). Take a deep breath before you begin. Open your lunch and just look at it. Notice all the different colours, shapes and textures. Breathe in again and notice the smells. You may now start to salivate. Notice how you feel about your lunch. Notice what is happening in your body. Is your stomach now anticipating your food?
Slowly bring your first bite/forkful towards your mouth. Take another breath before you place it in your mouth. Notice the sensations on your tongue and the sensations as you start to chew slowly. Chew for longer than you normally would and notice how your body feels as you swallow. Don’t start getting your next forkful ready until you have swallowed the first one. See if you can eat the whole of your lunch like this.
Be mindful of each forkful/bite if you can. Any time you notice that your mind has wandered, gently bring it back to your lunch. Notice the colours, shapes and textures again. Notice the taste and smell. Become aware of how your body is feeling. Notice how you feel emotionally.
If you can, wash up your dishes mindfully and try to bring your mindful awareness with you when you return back to your desk.
Try to practice eating this way at least once a week. If you can, be very mindful of the first bite or sip of each meal or drink that you have.
You may find that you start to make healthier choices when you are choosing/making your food.
This week has been Reiki Awareness Week. I have been posting every day on Facebook and Twitter to help spread the word about this fabulous technique.
I first came across Reiki over 15 years ago. I went to a spa for a bit of relaxation and pampering and thought I would just have massage and facial. However, one of the ladies there was offering Reiki (which I had never heard of). I decided to give it a go and loved it so much that I later trained to be a practitioner. The rest as they say is history!
I had the pleasure of attending a Reiki share on Tuesday to celebrate Reiki Awareness Week. This is where Reiki practitioners get together and swap sessions. There were 12 of us in the group and the energy in the room was amazing. We had 4 couches set up, which meant 4 groups of 3 people sharing Reiki at the same time. One person laid on the couch to receive, whilst the other 2 shared Reiki and then we swapped.
As a practitioner, I regularly give myself Reiki and practice the precepts etc. However, it was wonderful to just lie back and receive Reiki from other people. We also spent time sending out Reiki to people in need.
Reiki is very relaxing to receive and my clients often fall asleep during the session.
Reiki works on all levels, not just the physical and can help us emotionally, mentally and spiritually too. It can help our bodies to heal, boost our energy levels and increase our feeling of wellbeing. It is very helpful following an illness or operation. Regular Reiki helps boost our immune system, helping us stay healthy. It can also help us make better health choices too, by becoming more mindful and tuning in to what our body needs.
If you would like to learn more, checkout my Reiki page or get in touch to book your session now.
We have all probably heard of mindfulness by now. So what are the real-life benefits of doing mindfulness?
I created the following image to show some of the benefits…
These are just some of the benefits of mindfulness meditation. Others include:
Greater zest for life
Decrease in cigarette, alcohol or drug abuse
Many people find it hard to find the time to meditate. You can begin to benefit from just 5 or 10 minutes a day, so even if you are very busy, you should be able to fit it in your day. It is better to practice consistently every day for just 5 or 10 minutes than once in a while doing a long practice (30 minutes plus).
Find a time of day that suits you – not everyone can do it first thing in the morning. You might find when you get home from work a good time – allowing you to transition from work mode into home mode. It is also important to find a posture that works for you too. You don’t have to be cross-legged on the floor. You could be sat in a chair or lying down if that is more comfortable. You can have your feet flat on the floor with your knees knocked in and just touching each other. You are less likely to fall asleep in this position and it is helpful if you have a bad back.
The simplest meditation is to focus on your breathing. Watching the full breath on the inhalation and on the exhalation. Any time you find your mind has wandered (and it will – repeatedly!) gently bring it back to your breathing. Notice where in your body you can feel your breath – your nostrils, the back of your throat or your belly rising and falling with each breath.
Why not give it a go?
“We can never obtain peace in the outer world until we make peace with ourselves.” – Dalai Lama
Yay! It’s Autumn. One of my favourite times of year. It’s also the perfect time of year to be more mindful. I will share with you some tips on how to be more mindful at this time of year…
Mindful in Nature
Nature is putting on a spectacular show for us right now. So, time to tune in, slow down and appreciate the beauty around us.
Notice the amazing colours of the leaves as they transform. From yellow to orange to red to burgundy. The colours in Autumn are just incredible. I love to notice the transformation of certain trees that I see every day. One minute the leaves are all green and the next they are yellow or orange.
You can also walk mindfully amongst the fallen leaves. Remember when you were a kid and you used to walk through the leaves, kicking them up. Why not do that now? Listen to the rustle of the leaves, watch the colours and textures as they fall. Feel the crisp air on your skin and the wind blowing your hair.
Autumn is the start of the days getting shorter and the nights getting longer. I love to light candles in the evening and this is a great way to do a little mindful meditation.
Watch the flickering flame for awhile and then close your eyes. Picture the candle in your minds eye. If you can’t “see” it then open your eyes slightly so that you can just physically see the flame. Then bring your attention to your breath, watch the full breath coming and going. Focus on the candle in your minds eye whilst breathing calmly and deeply. Finish off by offering up your gratitude for the candle, the light and warmth of the flame and anything else you are grateful for in your life.
Autumn Mindful Eating
With the colder weather our minds turn to comforting and warming food. Soups, stews and casseroles are perfect at this time of year. You can be more mindful whilst preparing your food – lots of peeling and chopping to do! Be more mindful as you eat too – savour the smell, look, texture and taste – especially of your first bite.
“Autumn is a second spring where every leaf is a flower”
In the hurly burly of modern living we can easily get caught up in the constant game of doing. So it’s a great thing to just BE from time to time.
Recently, I was out walking with my husband and step daughter on Dartmoor. They’d stopped to take some photos so I carried on walking for a bit on my own. Then I found a nice rock to sit on and I sat for awhile just being in the present moment.
I could feel the warming sun on my skin, the gentle breeze teasing my hair. I noticed the sounds of the birds and sheep and smelt the grass.
It was a wonderful experience, just noticing my surroundings. Then once I had done that I began to notice my body, my breath and my thoughts and feelings. I started to let my thoughts and feelings go and just focus fully on my experiences. I was just being. In the present moment, enjoying it to the full.
Making It Last
So how can we make experiences like this last? I took some photographs and also took a mental photograph, capturing not just the visual images but all my other sense experiences and the feeling of peace and tranquillity, contentment and gratitude. You can use experiences this this as a good anchor. You just need to bring them to mind in stressful moments. You can replay how calm and peaceful you felt, how relaxed your body was. This can help bring to the same feeling and reduce your stress.
Increasing These Moments
You don’t need to be out in the wilds of Dartmoor to have experiences like this. You can practice just being practically anywhere. Just notice what is in your environment, then bring your awareness to your body, your breath and just be for awhile…
At times it can feel as if we have a monkey in our mind. We can feel out of control and our minds seem to have a mind of their own! Our thoughts jump from one topic to another to another. Our feelings can also bounce all over the place, leaving us feel unsettled. So what can we do when we feel the monkey has taken over?
Here I will discuss a couple of different options – EFT and Mindfulness.
EFT is a great tool for helping us deal with our emotions and what we are feeling. So tune in to how you feel – are you frustrated, annoyed, sad or angry? Whatever the feelings or emotions are you can use them in your tapping. Here’s an example:
Even though I’m annoyed that my monkey mind has taken over, I deeply and completely accept myself anyway
Even though it feels like there’s a monkey in my mind and I feel scared and out of control, I choose to accept all of me anyway
Even though I feel frustrated and angry that my monkey mind is out of control, I wonder if I can accept myself anyway
Then complete as many rounds as you need to reduce these feelings and emotions as close to a zero on the SUDS scale as you can (10 = maximum anger etc and 0=none). You may need to do many rounds of tapping, depending on what is going on. Remember to be thorough and try to get to 0 if you can. Adjust the wording each round if necessary as you get closer and closer to the underlying cause of your monkey mind.
It can be hard to meditate when you have a monkey in your mind. It’s important here to bring the qualities of kindness, compassion and non-judgement to your practice.
Quite often the harder we try, the more the monkey plays up! So go with it – don’t judge, just acknowledge the different thoughts and feelings as they come up. “Oh there goes my monkey mind again!”. Note what type of thoughts you’re having and name them e.g. “thinking, thinking”, “worrying, worrying”, “planning, planning”.
Then very gently, bring your mind back to your focus – e.g. your breath moving in and out of your belly. Or you may want to use a certain body anchor to focus on e.g. the stillness in your feet.
You may need to bring your mind back tens or hundreds of times – and that’s ok. Your mind will naturally wonder from time to time and sometimes the monkey will want to play more! Each time just bring a calm, kind acknowledgement to where it has been and bring it back to your anchor. Some days will be easier than others. Always remember to be kind and compassionate to yourself and your practice. You really are doing the best you can.
I have found it to be really helpful to do some tapping before I meditate. I tap to identify the source of my monkey mind first. After tapping several rounds I am usually calmer and more centred. I am then in a much better position to sit down and do my meditation. I then find that my mind is much less monkey like and able to stay focused on my breath or body anchor for my meditation.
I recently discovered this wonderful poem about our monkey mind by Kaveri Patel.
Thanking a Monkey
There’s a monkey in my mind swinging on a trapeze, reaching back to the past or leaning into the future, never standing still.
Sometimes I want to kill that monkey, shoot it square between the eyes so I won’t have to think anymore or feel the pain of worry.
But today I thanked her and she jumped down straight into my lap, trapeze still swinging as we sat still.
by Kaveri Patel
I hope that this has helped you work with your monkey mind 🙂
We all know that mindfulness is great for reducing stress and anxiety, improving our focus, memory and reducing our blood pressure. But it can be so hard sometimes to fit it in. Well you don’t have to practice for a long time every day. Even a few minutes can make a difference. Read on to find out how to fit mindful moments into your busy day 🙂 …
Mindfulness is about being present in the present moment with awareness of what is happening.
“Mindfulness is the awareness that emerges through paying attention: on purpose, in the present moment, and nonjudgmentally, to things as they are.” – Jon Kabat-Zinn
As well as formal meditation practice there are many different ways you can be more mindful. We’re often in automatic pilot where we’re performing tasks and doing things without being aware of it. This is great for certain things like brushing our teeth or getting dressed but not so useful when we want to be present, e.g. when we realise we haven’t really been paying attention in a meeting and we’re expected to give our opinion (oops!).
Here are some ways to fit some mindful moments into your busy day:
When you wake up take some slow deep breaths. Feel your whole body on the bed and really connect with it. This is a great way to start your day.
Whenever you make a drink do some mindful stretches. Raise your arms slowly above your head and feel the effect of the stretch on your arms, shoulders, back and neck. Rotate your shoulders or stretch your legs – whatever feels good to your body.
Pause whenever the phone rings. Drop your shoulders, adjust your posture and then answer.
Before emailing, take a couple of deep breaths. Let go of any tension. Ask yourself if you really need to do this now or can it wait until later?
When you get home from work, spend a few minutes doing a short mindful meditation. It can be as simple as just watching your breath for a few minutes. Noticing the inhalation and your belly inflating, noticing your exhalation and your belly deflating. Just focus on your breath and let everything else go.
Mindfully prepare your meal. Notice the colours, shapes, textures and smells of your food. Notice how your body feels as you prepare and cook your meal.
Mindfully do the dishes or stack the dishwasher. Notice the feel of the water, the bubbles and texture of the cloth. Or if you’re stacking the dishwasher, be mindful about where you’re placing the dishes, glasses etc.
There are lots of ways you can slip in these mindful moments to your day. I suggest that you try just one or two a day and practice them for a few days or a week and see how you get on. Then try a different couple and practice those. Mix and match the ones you find most useful and the ones you find most challenging.
I hope that you’ve found these suggestions useful. Let me know your favourite ways of being more mindful.
Here’s a short mindful meditation I created last year. It is only 6 minutes long and takes you on a mindful forest walk. I hope you enjoy 🙂
Can you remember the last thing you ate? Did you eat it with mindful awareness or did it slip down without much attention? Do you eat whilst working or watching the TV? Maybe you’ve gone to take another sip of your drink and realise that it’s all gone? Or you go to eat another crisp and realise the packet is empty. This is eating mindlessly or on auto-pilot where we are thinking of other things.
We can change this by becoming more mindful whilst we eat or drink. The next time you go to eat something try to do it mindfully. Look at the food first. Imagine that this is the first time that you’ve seen it. Notice the colours, shapes, textures or patterns. Become aware of any feelings you have about eating it. Take a piece or a forkful and bring it slowly up towards your mouth. Savour any smells that are present. Is your mouth now watering?
Notice how you feel again. Slowly put the piece or mouthful of food into your mouth. Bring your awareness to the sensations on your tongue. Begin to slowly move the food around your mouth and start chewing. Notice the sensations in your teeth and the saliva in your mouth. Does your stomach feel different as it anticipates the arrival of this food? When you are ready, swallow the food. See if you can feel it as it heads towards your stomach. Once again, notice how you feel.
This is probably very different to how you normally eat. If you have time, repeat this exercise again with the next piece or mouthful. See if you can eat a whole meal this way. It can be quite a challenge. You may end up eating less this way because you have noticed the sensations in your body and enjoyed the food, rather than mindlessly shovelling it in!
You can expand on this to mindfully cook your food. For example, take in all the colours of the vegetables as you place them on your chopping board. Feel the sensations in your hands as you peel, slice or chop them. Become aware of the sounds that are being made. Bring your awareness to all of your sensations as you start to cook your food. Pay particular attention to the smells as the food cooks. Be aware of your body as it responds to these sensations and starts to anticipate eating the food.
You can even think about where the food came from, where it was grown and how it got to the supermarket etc.
Meditation doesn’t have to be static, sat still on a chair or a cushion. We can be more mindful doing everyday tasks such as the washing up, cooking or brushing our teeth. It’s about being more present in the present moment. This morning on my walk in the forest I decided to be more mindful. I kept the same pace as I usually would but I became more present with my surroundings. Autumn is an ideal time to do this because of the changing colour of the leaves. I love the Autumnal colours so I relished the idea of taking in more of their beauty.
I really listened to the sounds I could hear and just noticed the quality of the sound rather than labelling them (e.g. wind rustling in the trees, leaves crunching, birds singing etc). I took in the colours of the leaves and all the vibrant shades. I noticed the leaves that were still green and those that had started to change colour. I also observed the leaves that had fallen already and the shapes they made on the ground.
I noticed the sensations in my feet and legs as I took each step. I became aware of my breath and felt it moving in and out of my body. You can notice it at your nostrils, your chest or your abdomen depending on what you find easiest. You can even say to yourself – “breathing in” and “breathing out” to help you focus.
I felt the temperature of the air on my face and hands and felt the wind blowing my hair. Finally I felt a sense of gratitude for being alive and experiencing the healing power of nature.
Next time you walk anywhere, why not try making it a bit more on the mindful side? It doesn’t have to be in nature – it could just be a walk to the shop or from your bus stop home! Just give it a go and see what happens. 🙂
How much body awareness do you have? This might seem like a strange question – of course we are physically in our body at all times.
What I’m referring to, is how much awareness do you have of your body? How much time are you present in your physical body?
It’s all too easy to get caught up in our thoughts and mind. We are often so busy we rush from one task to the next, to the next, to the next…We are rarely present in our physical body.
So how can we slow down and remind ourselves that we have this amazing body?
How about setting a reminder on your phone or computer? Or making it part of your daily routine, e.g. first thing in the morning, at lunchtime or before you go to sleep…
You just need to take a few slow deep breaths. Make your body comfortable, sitting in an upright position. Tune in to your body. Close your eyes if that feels ok. Maybe even ask your body how it feels? Let your focus move through your body, scanning each area in turn. Notice any tension and see if you can breathe gently into that area and soften it. Maybe thank your body for all the wonderful things it does (without you being aware of them). Ask your body what it needs. It could be more movement, water, food, rest etc. Notice what comes up for you and see if you can do what your body needs. Take another few slow deep breaths and when you feel ready, open your eyes again. See if you can keep this body awareness with you for awhile.
I hope that this helps you be a bit more mindful and you find it a helpful way to take a time out and be present in your body.