Welcome back to Self Care Sundays! This series runs every single Sunday, and each week we share new ways to infuse a little extra self care into your life. Whether you’re a student, busy mum or full-time entrepreneur, there’s sure to be something for you. You can have a read through all of our live instalments here. Happy Sunday!
Mindfulness is seemingly so simple, and yet we all seem to struggle sometimes to fit it in. Who has time? Who can fit it in with life and work and being social? The good news is being mindful doesn’t always have to mean meditating for an hour a day or living in a commune in Bali. This week’s Self Care Sunday is all about little ways to be more mindful, even when you have a million things to do.
Mindfulness is a technique used to reduce stress, relieve anxiety, increase happiness, and generally keep you more present in any given moment. Regular practice can help to keep you productive and more focused on the task at hand. Which all sounds great, doesn’t it? Except with work and life and a house to run and kids to feed and a dog to walk, it’s easy to forget. In the modern world, we’re constantly being bombarded with information – if you’re anything like me you’ll know the familiar pull to check your phone or how many hours can be lost to social media, and add that to all of life’s other demands we’ll often forget to take a moment.
10 Steps to Mindfulness For Busy People
Take a mindful shower. This is one of my favourite ways to wind down at the end of the day, but you can use it basically any time you shower. I start with body brushing – it’s great to exfoliate the skin and leaves you feeling invigorated. Be selective about the products you use – choose ones with uplifting or relaxing scents (I use a lot of essential oils in my shower routine). Massage your scalp as you wash your hair. Focus on what is around you; feel the warm water on your skin, inhale the wonderful scents you’re surrounded by, watch the swirling steam, listen to the pounding water. Hold the intention to wash away any stress or tension. When you’re done, moisturise your whole body, or maybe try body oiling. Focus on areas you’re holding tension. Breathe deeply, and fully.
By the end not only will you feel very relaxed, but you’ll have given yourself the full pamper session you deserve.
If you can’t do that, focus on your skincare. Almost all of us have some kind of skincare routine that we do morning and night regardless of how busy we are, and it’s a great opportunity to be mindful. If you don’t have time for a full shower then simply focus on your skincare. Regardless of whether you use 3 products or 10, focus on what each one does. If you can, use products that feel relaxing and luxe to you (luxe doesn’t always mean expensive! I’m a huge fan of oil-based products which are cheap but work well for facial massages, they feel great).
Make your coffee breaks actual breaks. Make your coffee and focus solely on that. This one is particularly good in the middle of a workday where you maybe don’t want to be stretching and meditating in a room full of people. Try to find a quiet space, and focus purely on how your coffee feels, tastes smells and looks. How does it feel to be drinking it? Try to avoid getting distracted by to do lists or your phone or other people. This way, your break will actually be a real one and you’ll come back feeling calm and refreshed. Of course, you can do this with whatever you’re choosing to drink (peppermint tea is a really good one for this!).
Get really good at lists. Keep a notebook in your bag or at your desk where you can brain dump anything and everything that comes up as you work. If you’re someone who is tasked with lots of different things at work, jot them down and prioritise them as you go. I like to prioritise by using ease vs impact – rating all the items on a scale of 1-10 for both. If there’s something particularly unpleasant you have to do, get it out of the way first. Schedule the rest according to how easily you can get them done and have the most impact. This is a good way to focus on one thing at a time (and therefore do it well!), and also feel the most productive.
Try the 4-7-8 technique. This is my absolute favourite breathing exercises for when I’m feeling stressed, worn out, anxious, tired, or just about anything. At its very core, it’s about lengthening your exhale – if you’re someone who holds lots of tension you’ll maybe notice that sometimes you don’t fully exhale and feel a little like you’re holding your breath or gasping. I try to do this each morning, but you can get away with doing it at your desk or in the staff room without being super conspicuous as well. It’s a great technique for quickly relieving stress or anxiety, so if you’re feeling the overwhelm a quick few minutes to focus on your breath is a game changer.
Eat mindfully. Sitting in my staff room at work it’s clear to see I’m not the only one who falls prey to scanning my phone, reading, watching TV, listening to music, or most recently for me, doing Sudoku. Often times, we’re so unfocused on what we’re eating that the food is on the plate and gone before we even realise and we usually don’t follow our bodies when it comes to paying attention to fullness signals or hunger signals. Reaching for the biscuits after a full meal is all too familiar, but it’s usually not because you’re hungry as opposed to being so distracted you don’t know what you’re even feeling. Sit down, be rid of your distractions and focus on what you’re eating – how it tastes, the texture, the temperature. Chew slowly and focus on not just shovelling food in your mouth. Enjoy it.
Take regular stretch breaks. Ever notice how when you feel yourself tensing up after being in one position for a long time it becomes really difficult to concentrate o what you’re doing? It can make you ratty, sore and miserable. Stretching is the answer! It doesn’t have to be a full-on yoga class in your office, but some gentle shoulder or leg stretches, deep breaths, getting up and walking around and shaking it off is the quickest way to get back to being focused. Do it often, and use it as a chance to check in with how your body is feeling. Body scanning is a great, fast way to get a mindful moment in and especially if you work in a stressful environment it serves as a great reminder to get your stretch on. For reference, Shona Vertue shares some really awesome mobility and stretch routines on her Instagram and Youtube.
Set reminders to hydrate. I’m the worst for forgetting to drink water when things get busy so most recently I’ve been trying to make a big effort to keep a big bottle of water with me to hydrate as often as I can. This one is pretty self-explanatory, but drinking enough is important!
Try an app. Headspace, Insight Timer, Calm, Think Up and Shine are all great apps to take mindful moments with. Insight timer is free and has the most options IMO, plus a social element that allows you to chat and join groups with other people too, but I do occasionally use headspace or calm if I’m after something short and sweet. Tink Up is an app for practising affirmations which is a great tool if you don’t have tonnes of time but want a big impact, and Shine sends you daily motivation and inspiring messages.
Practice mindful communication. Make eye contact with people, even though it can be uncomfortable. Thank people sincerely. Say their name more often when you talk. Be aware of the words you use and your tone – which sounds obvious in theory but we’re often in such a hurry we’re not totally aware of our own impact. Mary Shores’ Conscious Communications is a lovely book to help you tackle your own language and communicate in a more mindful way in your personal and professional life.
And the rest… There’s pretty much no limit to what activities you can make more mindful – it’s simply about being present and centred in what you’re doing.
And that’s mindfulness for busy people! How can you try and be more mindful in your day to day life? Share some tips with me if you have any!