I don’t know about you, but by the end of each week I am both mentally and physically exhausted. Why am I so tired? I ask myself time and time again. Work wasn’t extraordinarily stressful. I didn’t have any major issues like car trouble. And the weekend was relatively leisure. So what’s the deal?
Slow Your Roll: Live in the Moment
Oftentimes, the root of our distress is our own impatience—we’re always trying to move more quickly, more efficiently. To get from point A to point B in as little time as possible. To finish a given task immediately. To solve a given problem without interruption or difficulty. But the reality is that this does more harm than good. Our constant rushing is exhausting us, both mentally and physically. And while we try to curb the negative effects with coffee, energy drinks, and other modern-day privileges, we’re overlooking one of the most effective remedies out there: mindful meditation. Nicole Porter, PhD, a fellow of The Dalai Lama’s Mind and Life Institute, explains what we do to combat mental and physical exhaustion, versus what we should do:
“Scratch the surface and people are searching for a cure. We guzzle Red Bull and dash into Starbucks. We drive too far, too fast, and work too many hours. We self-shame, live with exhaustion, eat poorly, drink too much, pop Xanax, and zone out on social media. We buy a MyPillow and an electronic bed, collapse in fitful sleep, and wake unrefreshed. We’re information overloaded, overworked, and overwhelmed. We’re exhausted in body, mind, and spirit, and we wonder why we’re unhappy!
To decrease stress and improve quality of life, meditation is probably the most researched and effective technique, and with long term practice it leads to robust improvements in all facets of mental and physical wellbeing. Mindfulness research shows that meditation works, not just to improve your perceived quality of life, but it also improves your underlying physiological health and psychological wellbeing. We do it because it works, and the mechanisms underlying its healing effects are now validated by scientific evidence.”
Mindfulness in Practice: 6 Guidelines
Mindfulness teaches you to calm down, and reflect on a situation, before you respond. This prevents you from reacting with anger, frustration, or otherwise negative emotions without first evaluating what’s going on: “Many of us struggle with impatience, whether it be in communication with others or during stressful events. Our brains are wired to want to do something quickly to change situations that aren’t going how we’d like them to go. Mindfulness teaches us a different way to respond,” explains Laura Chackes, Psy.D., owner and Clinical Director of The Center for Mindfulness & CBT. “Since we often cannot change another person or situation—and even when changes can be made, they often occur over time—we need to learn to accept or just allow the situation to be as it is for now. The problem is this is very difficult for us to do; therefore, we often feel impatient.
Here’s where mindfulness comes in. Mindfulness creates space between the situation and your reaction to it. It can help you slow down, evaluate what’s going on, and respond in a way that is in line with your values, rather than reacting impulsively. However, since we live in such a fast-paced society and have been conditioned to move quickly, slowing down is not easy. It takes a lot of practice. With regular practice, the mind will start to develop the ability to shift gears when needed, to a slower more purposeful gear so to speak. Once this is established, you will be able to notice when you are feeling impatient, take a breath, and let the situation be as it is. You may decide to take some action at some point; but, that action will be well thought out from a calm place, rather than a reaction from a place of frustration.” Combat exhaustion and stress, better handle conflicts, and improve your overall wellbeing by practicing mindfulness—just follow Chackes’ following guidelines:
- Take a mindfulness course if possible, to learn everything you can about mindfulness and develop a regular practice.
- Chose a time every day to do a 10-minute guided mindful medication.
- When you’re faced with a difficult situation, pause and take a breath. Remember that things do not change right away, and reacting mindlessly will likely lead to undesired consequences.
- Practice mindful listening when communicating with others, by putting aside what you want to say as well as any judgments of what the other person is saying, and really listen to what they are saying.
- Before responding, take a breath and think about what you really want to convey and how that message will best be conveyed.
- Remember that you can always take a break when you are feeling stressed, and come back to the situation later. Often giving yourself some time and space will have a huge impact on how the situation is handled.