My cell phone rings, and I look down to see 7 new voicemails. As I check to see who’s called I see 108 new email messages, 5 appointments on my calendar, and my bloated “to do” list. I can feel my stomach tighten as I consider where and when I’m going to fit in everything. All while I’m preparing for a meeting that will invariably lead to 5 or 6 new projects…
Sound familiar? Life in the info-tech age keeps getting faster and faster. Sure, you can choose to ignore it, but what opportunities (or problems) just popped up that ring of urgency and that you just can’t miss?
However, I’ve learned over the years that when I feel my stomach tighten, my temples throb, and my mind races while I prioritize and organize that it’s time to take a short break. It’s time to center myself. I turn off the devices, the tablet and laptop (yeah scary, right?), tap Pandora on my phone to find my favorite station, and find a comfortable sitting position. I close my eyes and step out of my thoughts. As each new stress-related thought pops into my head, I imagine putting it in the basket of a hot air balloon and watching it float away. I run through a tension-relaxation exercise while keeping my mind open and free. If I’m close to my belongings I’ll pull out a soothing scent and allow my mind to wander through all of the wonderful, calm memories that are prompted. I try not to focus on time, but rather recognize my level of relaxation. On a scale of 1 – 10 (10 meaning high stress, 1 meaning no stress) I may start out an 8 or 9, and I take the time to get myself to at least a 3. Sometimes that happens in 10 minutes and sometimes I need 20. Then I slowly bring myself out of the exercise noticing how I’m feeling and imagining my feet firmly planted back on the ground.
Have I wasted valuable time that I could have been responding to emails, returning phone calls, or reorganizing my calendar? No, I have not. With renewed energy I’m much more efficient at organizing my thoughts. I’m more effective in responding to the messages I’ve been sent. I feel as if I have better control over my thoughts, feelings, and emotions – and with that control I can make better decisions. Even more impressive is that I’m calm and relaxed when I walk into meetings, and am better able to listen to others, and focus on what others are thinking and feeling. This means I’ll be even more mindful about how I interact and inspire others to action.
This IS mindfulness. And the nice thing about mindfulness, is that as you practice skills related to mindfulness your emotional intelligence peaks as well. You don’t have to follow the example illustrated above – but it’s a template for a few strategies you may use if you haven’t tried others you prefer. Take the opportunity today and give yourself those 10, 20, or 30 minutes you need. Then spend a little time throughout your day noticing anything that happens differently.
And if something amazing happens, don’t be shy. Shoot me an email – because I love amazing stories!
Until next time,