Stress can hit at any moment. It can also be chronic. Either of which keeps us off our A game.
Regardless if you’re triggered in the moment or constantly feel like a twisted knot, you can melt the stress away using mindfulness practices. Below are four easy mindfulness practices that help drop you out of stress and back into your power.
Bringing your mind back to the present
When I meditate, my mind tends to wander. My mind floats to things from the past, my agenda for the day, etc. I’ll bet that is also true for you.
When I hear from fellow meditators, they say the same thing. Often, that frustrates us or we question if we’re doing it right.
Here’s the big insight: coming back to the present moment IS the practice. When your mind wanders in meditation, notice the wandering as an “event” and bring it back to whatever you’re anchoring to – your breath, music, your body, etc. Don’t get caught up in what you’re thinking about. Just bring it back.
The practice of noticing the mind wandering and bringing it back to the present will start to show-up in real life moments. When you get stressed over something, your mind is not in the present moment. You’re focused either on the past or the future.
The mindfulness practice of bringing the mind back will help you notice when your mind wanders elsewhere, which causes the stress. You’ll naturally begin to come back to the present situation with more clarity. That will give you more license to take the best action from a place of power.
Being fully present
I’ve used meditation to “zone out.” I’ve quieted my mind and let go of all my worries. I’ve gone all-in with a guided voice. Hit the reset button.
There’s nothing with that. However, in those moments, I’m not fully present.
A goal of a truly mindful practice is to not zone out. In fact, it encourages us to zone in.
I’ve adjusted my practice to mix in being fully present to the ENTIRE experience. Which means this: if there’s pain or uncomfortableness I simply notice it. I don’t try to fix it. Just notice it. I realize that discomfort is part of my current experience. Magically, it often passes with my direct intervention. When it doesn’t, I make a conscious choice to shift and move instead of it being a knee-jerk reaction.
I’m building a greater tolerance for “painful” situations in life as a result . I found that I lean more into harder or more vulnerable conversations. That I’m otherwise more effective because of my practice of being fully present to the whole moment.
Mindfulness is not just eyes closed meditation. There’s great practices that are in the body.
A favorite of mine is “mindful-walking.” This is simply a practice of noticing everything when you walk. Noticing how your heel lands, then roll or drop to the ball of your foot. How your arms swing. The ambient sounds you hear. The sights that you take in. Noticing the full experience of walking.
Sounds weird, I know. Here’s my takeaway. When I focus on my body while walking, I’m in the present moment – and out of my head. I don’t carry stress in my feet & legs. I carry it in my mind. So, I get out of my mind and into my body. Once my focus leaves my mind, stress goes away.
To do this, start by walking really slowly, such that you can sense all that is happening in your stride. A great way to do it is connecting your stride to your natural breath cadence. When you can notice all the activity of the legs and feet, you can go faster until you’re at a natural walking pace.
Give it a shot and let me know what you experience.
Acceptance is one of the most powerful perspectives we can take. True acceptance is not a passive state. It’s an active state.
Too often, when we “accept” a situation, we look at it through the lens of “it is what it is.” We can feel like we’ve reached our limit or are just rolling over.
That is NOT acceptance. That’s victimhood.
Radical acceptance looks like seeing the situation for what it is and without judgment. Instead of saying “it is what it is” we say “this is what currently is.”
Once we accept what it currently is, we are not fighting the situation or rolling over. We stay in our power to fully choose how to respond.
This morning I had the chance to use this practice. We live in a corner house a half block away from a popular coffee & taco place. People routinely park in front of our house to go there. This morning, the city is doing roadwork on the street with our driveway which cuts off our access. I put out cones in front of our house to make sure we could park at our house and not up the street.
Returning home from breakfast with my 3 year old, someone was parked in front of our house, not leaving a spot for me. The car looked like it was on, so I knew someone was inside.
I could have easily fallen victim “well, I guess I’ll just park up the street then” or probably more easily frustration “what a jerk for parking between our cones.” Instead, I just accepted the fact that currently someone was parked where I would like to park.
That acceptance gave my space to “respond” instead of “react.” I purposefully rolled up slowly, put my window down and with a genuine smile I said “Hi there, are you planning to park there?” He said he was about to move and did within seconds. I didn’t defend myself for it being my house nor did I point out the cones. What would have been the purpose, to prove I’m right and he’s wrong?
By radically accepting, I was able to stay in my power and not give it over to the other driver. I parked where I wanted to park. More importantly, I moved through my day without having to shake off a cloud. If you want to read more about radical acceptance, check out the article I published a few weeks prior: Acceptance Is Radical
These are just four practices of mindfulness that can help you move through and beyond stress. If you want to go deeper into these or other techniques for getting out stress and over index to a peak performance state, message me here or on Instagram @Coach.CarterW.