Do you wear busyness like a badge of honour awarding yourself brownie points for multi-tasking, functioning on little sleep and skipping lunches?
Are you often overwhelmed by the over-scheduled nature of life?
Early alarm clocks, breakfast on the go, kids to school, you to work, meetings, the gym when energy permits, dinner, homework, the dog!, lunches packed, teeth brushed, crash and repeat…
Seeking balance in your day when it resembles an over-flowing cup of coffee can seem out of reach.
But, did you realize that it’s often the thoughts of “I have too much to do, I’m always running, there is never enough time” and not the actual to-do list each day that often causes the most stress?
For so many of us, we have habitually busy minds. Even when we have a minute to breath we choose to spend it worrying about past situations that are just that…in the past never to be changed, or projecting future events that haven’t happened, hoping we can control their outcome.
A short break (I call them “balance breaks”) to pattern-interrupt your habitual busy mind can really help you to feel less constricted, less reactive and support the happiest, healthiest version of you!
So, you ask, how do I fit a “balance break” into my already out of balance day? Here I share some practical and easy ways to do just this. I promise you the investment of time will return dividends 10 fold. These practices have truly transformed my life and by extension the lives of the people around me, especially my family and those I care about (including my dog!).
Psychotherapist Ronald Alexander tells us that through even the simplest meditations or mindfulness exercises, we engage the left-prefrontal cortex of our brain. This area is associated with optimism, self-observation, and compassion. In turn, we allow ourselves to cease being dominated by the right-prefrontal cortex, which is associated with fear, depression, anxiety, and pessimism. As a result, our self-awareness and mood stability increase as our harsh judgments of others and ourselves decrease. Even if you can only devote five minutes a day to mindful meditation type exercises, doing so while waiting in line at the bank, sitting in traffic, or waiting on hold for computer technical support, you can receive these benefits.
How to Take a Balance Break
- Start your day off right: One of the best ways to kick-start a day of balance is to begin with 5 minutes of deep breathing first thing in the morning. Because this can be done while you are still lying in bed, if you choose, it can be both an easy and practical way to get your day off on the right foot. Simply close your eyes and begin to follow your breath. Very gently begin to extend the inhale and exhale as you slowly breathe in and out. This should be a very comfortable process; no extra points for forcing, less is more! Continue to do this for about 5 minutes and then just let your breath go for a minute as you bring your attention back to your whole body. Finish with a thought of something you are grateful for. Gently open your eyes, stretch for a second and begin your day. I have seen over and over again how this simple technique, done every morning, can begin to bring a real shift into my client’s lives. And that is a beautiful thing!
- I’m Feeling Stressed Out! The ideal time for a balance break is often when you become aware that your level of stress is mounting. As I mentioned, it is often the thoughts and stories we allow to build up around our to-do list, verses the actual list, that creates much of the stress we feel. If you can simply become aware of that escalating feeling of stress there is a perfect opportunity for a balance break. Sense the stress and identify where you feel it (Is it tightness in your chest? Burning in your stomach? A knot in your neck?). Once you can actually feel where it is manifesting in your body, bring your awareness to that place and take 5 long, slow deep breathes…count them as you focus on your body, 1…2….3…4…5. Stop, check in ..how do you feel? Repeat. What we are doing here is pattern interrupting your habitually busy mind; taking the focus from the escalating and often overwhelming thoughts to your breath. Your breath holds the key to relaxing your mind and body bringing about balance.
Just as we work hard to nourish our body with wholesome food, we need to make time to nourish our mind. The average person has 60-70 thousand thoughts a day so if you feel like you suffer from monkey-mind..you are not alone! Embracing these simple techniques for balance breaks will bring you to a place of expanded happiness, greater health and increased success in all areas of your life.
Wishing you a happy, healthy and vibrant spring!
Certified Instructor, Stress Management Coach
Creator of the “Happier, Healthier Me!” program