People can be hard on themselves. As a parent and practitioner with 20 years of experience of working with young people, I have witnessed first-hand the cruelty that people can impose on themselves with their thoughts and emotions as they find it hard to navigate a way forward. Often critical at the smallest of things that can then over time spiral into a pattern of negative self-talk and low self-esteem, that if not addressed could lead into adulthood with harmful effects on their mental health.
By practicing mindfulness and self-compassion techniques on a regular basis we can:
Learn how to calm our minds.
Regulate our emotions and be kinder to ourselves.
Be better prepared to handle situations that may be tricky or tough both now and in the future.
The practice of mindfulness empowers us to not ignore difficult situations or emotions but to notice and face them so that they do not become suppressed only to manifest at other times or in other ways.
Numerous studies now show that daily mindfulness practice can have a profound impact on our emotional wellbeing, our physical health, our ability to cope with stress and challenges, the quality of our relationships, and even our workplace performance.
Why mindfulness works for me…
Having been someone who thought multitasking was a well-earned skill, I went for years thinking I was ‘living my best life’, to realising I was living a ‘tick box’ life constantly thinking ahead of the next thing rather than actually enjoying my life moment by moment.
Becoming a Mum made this worse for me, I would panic if I didn’t have things 100% organised for the week ahead for myself and the children. I would also find myself thinking about my ‘to-do list’ whilst playing with my children or talking to my friends. I would check my phone 100 times a day for emails and messages to make sure I was super organised and ahead of the game. I was never really ‘there’, in the moment. My head was full of information; my diary, my children’s schedule, work, my dreams and ambitions, my worries. I was feeling on edge all of the time and wondered what the chest tightening pains were. Something had to change.
I realised I was having mild panic attacks and symptoms of anxiety and felt exhausted from it all. So I decided to look into what I could do to help myself.
I embraced mindfulness practice and truly believe that my regular practices have enhanced my life and helped me to cope with life’s daily pressures. It has also transformed my ability to cope with stressful situations as they arise, especially juggling life with work and two small children, life can be pretty busy at times! Meditation grounds me, it allows me to focus on one thing at a time and regulates my emotion’s, I can not recommend it enough.
I started by putting my phone out of earshot for periods of time in the day so that I wasn’t reactive to messages that would ‘ping’ to get my attention. I then started using the app Headspace for my daily meditation. I also use YouTube. You can search ‘meditation to help with; confidence/self-esteem/fitness/patience/grief/pain’ (you can find literally anything on there!) and make time each morning to meditate for 10 minutes before my day gets going. I am also much more mindful in general, focussing on doing one thing at a time until I’m done….then moving onto the next. I notice things more…the sounds around me, tastes, smells and how things feel. This helps me to come back to the present moment, rather than the past or the future. Memory muscle in the mind is so powerful and so after a time, your mind will ‘learn’ new ways of thinking.
Notice the thoughts
It is still important to acknowledge the emotion that you feel at times of stress or change because ignoring it will manifest eventually. It pops up in all sorts of places. For me, it’s my dreams. If I suppress emotions I often find that I dream odd (sometimes scary or sad) things and I have a nervous feeling for a few days. It’s a sure-fire signal that I wasn’t done processing what is going on, so I take more time to accept and be present with that emotion without judgment, mindful practices help me with that process. For others, it may manifest itself in stress or anger perhaps. These unhelpful thoughts bypass our conscious attention and leave us with a negative emotion or state such as; feeling unwell, exhausted or tearful. It’s amazing how interconnected our minds and bodies are. The more we learn about both, I believe the easier and more peaceful life can become.
Mindfulness techniques allow us to focus the mind on the activity that the body is doing, so for example whilst washing up I notice the warmth of the water, the sounds of the plates and the movement that my hands are making. I focus on engaging with all my senses, taking in what is around me.
I’m not perfect, I do my best. I know that this practice has enhanced mine and my family’s lives and I now use the tools and techniques with the young people that I work with.
You can start anytime. What’s more… it’s free!
Why not give it a go…?