We’ve all been there: drowning in work, juggling doctor’s appointments and parent-teacher meetings, chauffeuring kids to activities, keeping up with the laundry and groceries so that the family is reasonably clothed and fed, multitasking every minute of every day, when suddenly, we hit a bump in the road.
Maybe it’s a sick kid who needs 100% of our attention, or a computer virus that erases all our work and not-yet-printed family photos. Maybe it’s a huge traffic snarl that has us missing important, impossible-to-reschedule appointments. Some days it’s as small as an unscheduled meeting or the grocery store being out of our favourite cereal. In any case, the proverbial camel’s back is broken and the tiny straw is lying innocently on the floor and you find yourself spiralling out of control.
In the grand scheme of things, such issues may be very small, but in the moment, they seem enormous and sanity-threatening. When everything seems overwhelming, it’s time to take a step back and focus on five steps to practice mindfulness when you’re losing your mind. These help to bring us back into the present moment so that we can renew our focus and awareness, and counteract the adrenaline-fueled panic and busyness of everyday life.
It’s said that mindfulness is the key to joy and happiness in life, being present in the moment and appreciating what is happening, right now. But how do we practice mindfulness when it feels like we are losing our minds?
I know. You’re already breathing; you’re not dead. But try to breathe deeply and with intention.
Close your eyes and place your hands on your belly. Breathe deeply in through the nose and out through the nose. Feel your hands rise and fall as you inhale and exhale. Count slowly in your head, inhaling for the same count as you exhale. As you breathe, think Inhale, peace. Exhale, happiness.
Use your senses to notice what’s happening around you. What can you hear, see, and smell? As you breathe deeply, notice the small things around you without judgement; the scent of your laundry detergent as you load the washer, the colour of the car in front of you at the red light, the sound of the roofers working on the house next door.
Notice these things with detachment; the roofer’s noises may have been irritating, but realize they are just noises happening right now.
Stop multitasking for a moment and look at one single task at hand. Concentrate 100% on the email you need to send, without thinking about the twenty open tabs on your computer. Stir the sauce on the stove without thinking about everything else you need to do before dinner. Just take a moment to focus on what you are doing, right now, and keep breathing.
Notice what your body is doing; be aware of each part of your body, starting from your toes. Close your eyes and, as you breathe deeply, concentrate on each body part. Is there pain or tension? Do you have sore muscles, a stiff back, tense shoulders? Notice each of these things, then imagine relaxation and release. Imagine your shoulders relaxing, your back releasing. Is your jaw tight and clenched? Imagine it softening, and then soften it.
You’re stuck in traffic and you’re going to be late. You have two choices: become angry and frustrated, or accept where you are. In both cases, you’ll get to your destination at the same time, but in the former case you will arrive frazzled and upset. If you choose the latter, you’ll realize you are where you are, and that’s okay.
Sometimes being forced to stop or slow down can be a signal that you need to take a breath for a moment. In our busy lives, we have very few opportunities to just BE. Take a moment that could be frustrating and use it as an opportunity to practice mindfulness.
Realize deeply that the present moment is all you ever have. – Eckhart Tolle