Tag Archives: Physical exercise

Super busy? No time to relax? Give yourself the gift of symbolic mindfulness today

Had a busy week? Are you feeling a little overwhelmed with all the things that you need to do before going back to work on Monday? Or even planning to work this week-end to catch up? When you stop and take a deep belly breath, do you feel tension or constriction? Maybe even anxiety, hypervigilance or nervousness?

Slowing down and doing less does not seem a viable option

Most of us find it a really challenge, if not impossible, to deeply enjoy our week-ends after a busy and potentially stressful week at work. Slowing down is something that a lot of women especially are finding not an easy thing to achieve….there is always too much to do, too many expectations and not enough time.

Yet, to be healthy and to be successful at home and at work, we need to allow our body, mind and spirit to rest and replenish.  Instead of doing more, we ideally need to do less. Given the amount of tasks that most women have to on their daily to do list this seems like a joke or an impossible thing to ask.

Meditation is a proven stress reliever, yet not the answer for everyone

Doing  a short 5-10 minute meditation or any kind of physical exercise with deep belly breathing every morning really helps to focus the day, and reenergise our hyperactive minds and emotions. Also meditating in the evenings increases the stress relief.

However, I am finding with a number of my clients, especially when they are not regular meditators, that it takes a long time, time they do not feel they have, to achieve any measure of calmness, relaxation and clarity.

If you fall into this group of people, you might like to give the following approach a go. I found this mindfulness practice works really well whilst it does not require taking blocks of time out of your day. It can also be used as a precursor to easing into a more regular meditation practice.

Using an element theme for the day (or the week-end)

I tend to work with the five elements (Water, Wood, Fire, Earth and Metal) in my Movement and Meditation practice. These elements are around almost anywhere and it is easy and effortless to notice their qualities, their properties and their presence in your life all throughout the day.

Pick an element or a symbol that has qualities that you wish to have more of in yourself and your life. Just by making sure you notice this element all throughout the day when you can, will help to boost the element’s qualities in you.

The power of symbols

Focussing on one element for a day or several days, is a beautiful practice that will help ground and focus your mind, both the conscious and unconscious mind.

Research, and my experience, have shown that the unconscious mind which operates our body, our habits and our emotions, responds better to symbols¹ and simple/short instructions than literal and complex language.

Given that most people who are stressed and overwhelmed, and who find it a challenge to switch off are also often dehydrated, my suggestion is to pick Water as your theme for the day. Water is a wonderful element with many facets and qualities, and we are made up of more than 80% of water ourselves.

Working with the element of WATER 

Water1

1. Take a notepad the evening before and write down the key qualities of your symbol e.g. for water they might be  flow, detox, clarity, stillness and force at the same time, flexibility, life, and a whole host of other qualities I will leave to your own creativity.

2. Read what you have written as soon as you get up in the morning

3. Then throughout the day … starting with your shower, your first cup of tea or even when you look out of the window and see the rain or the snow or dew on surfaces/plants ….notice WATER and its many qualities….

Here are some questions you can quickly run through your mind when you notice WATER

  • drinkingHow does this WATER feel? On your skin, on your tongue when you are drinking it, when you touch it?
  • What is its texture?
  • What does it look like? What is its colour?
  • What does it sound like?
  • What is its taste and smell?
  • Which  qualities  does this WATER have? What do these qualities feel like in you?

No need to put your observations into words, just notice and let that flow through you.

water 24.When you spot WATER in one of  its many forms … rain drops, tap or shower flow, snow or frozen, puddles, beverages, food, moisture in the air, in colours e.g. blue… take at least 3 deep belly breaths notice the qualities of this WATER.

You might want to put a hand on your naval area to feel the breath going into your belly.

5. At the end of the day, notice how you feel, what you have accomplished, and what has changed for you ….

Feel free to comment how this practice has worked for you.

Wishing you a joyful week-end, and relaxed next week!

¹ can be pictures, physical objects, simple words that stand for something, sounds, physical sensations (touch or feelings), tastes or smells

What’s your self-care strategy?

Or do you even have a self-care strategy? If you don’t, you are not alone. Most women I know, don’t have a self-care strategy!

What I mean by self-care strategy is not your morning shower, your face care and make-up routine. Self-care is spending real and energising time with and on yourself; time that is totally and utterly yours to increase and maintain your physical, mental and spiritual health.

As women we have been conditioned by society that spending  time on ourselves is selfish, frivolous or unnecessary. Women are expected and expect of themselves to look after the needs of others first and then, if there is time, consider our own needs. Studies have shown that there are many more
women than men who are stressed, run down or on medication for stress related
illnesses.

Therefore, I would like to you to consider the following: It  is selfish not to spend time on your self-care. Because if you don’t spend that time on yourself and your own wellbeing (physical, mental, spiritual), how on earth can you keep up your energy looking after and satisfying the needs of others?  I am sure you will have noticed that you can get much more done and to a higher quality, when your energy is a at a peak and you feel great compared to times when you are stressed, run down or have low energy.

Before we look at your current or future self-care strategy, let’s have a look at your beliefs on self-care. So ask yourself, now:

When you think of self-care, what do you associate with this concept?

What did you feel the last time you took time out for yourself? A lot of women feel guilty when they take out time for self-care. Therefore they cannot enjoy their time away from their responsibilities to the full and do not achieve the desired de-stressing or energising effect.

What else comes to mind when you think of self-care? Are your beliefs around self-care even your own? Or are they your parents’, work colleagues’ or even friends’ beliefs? It is useful to write down your beliefs, and for each belief I invite you to leave some space underneath or beside the statement. And when you have listed all your beliefs, pick the ones that are not serving you. For each disempowering belief, write down what you want it to be instead and why the new belief would serve you better from now on. Once you have done that, make sure to cross out (if you like, use a red pen) the old belief.

Do you know what to say ‘no’ to and how to say ‘no’?

“I have no time for self-care activities”, is something I often hear from my female clients. One of the reasons for this situation is, that lots of women find it hard to say ‘no’ to requests from colleagues, bosses, family members and/or friends even if the activities mean that she would have to, yet again, cancel her personal self-care time.

Over the next week, start to notice what your automatic response is when someone asks you to do something for them. Are you an automatic sponge, i.e. ‘no’ is not part of your vocabulary, or are you someone who is comfortable with saying ‘no’ to tasks that do not fit into your already planned day/week or with your goals? Or do you find that you will always say yes to some people, but not to others?

Once you are aware of your automatic responses, I invite you to review those situations and consider whether your responses serve(d) you. For undesired automatic ‘yes’ responses, decide what it is that you want to happen instead. Do prepare your desired response in advance so that you are ready next time you receive a similar request. You will find that cutting down on tasks that do not serve you, will not only make you feel better about yourself but will also free up time for self-care.

Now that you have reviewed your beliefs on self-care and have freed up time for your self-care activities, it is time to review your self-care strategy:

  • What self-care activities do you currently do and are those sufficient or working for you?
  • What energising self-care activities did you do in the past that could you pick up again?
  • What is the one self-care activity that if you did it every day (or once a week) would give you the most energy?

Ideally, take some self-care time every day. Some women enjoy massages, reading a book, listening to their favourite music, going out with girl-friends, taking a walk outside, taking part in a fitness class or meditating. These are just some examples, and you need to find the activities that are right for you.

Key things to watch out for when choosing self-care activities are:

  • Are you energised (or de-stressed) by the activity?
  • Can you fully enjoy it without complaining or judging yourself?
  • Are your self-care activities (as a whole) satisfying your physical, mental and spiritual needs?

If the answer is no to any of these questions, it may not right activity for you and it might be better for you to choose another activity that is right for you. Enjoy creating your self-care schedule.

Check out Cheryl Richardson’s book Extreme Self-Care for further ideas. Another great resource for inspiration on self-care is Jane Scrivner’s book Detox your Mind.

Have fun and enjoy your self-care time!