After a week off from the mindfulness challenge (I forgot to pick a card out and only realised on Friday, so decided to knock it on its head for that week), I’m back and ready with a great task this week!
This week’s task was designed to take a step back from stress and lessen its impact. Every time I started to feel even a little bit stressed, I had to stand or sit up straight and take three deep, slow breaths. I was to focus purely on my breathing and nothing else. I thought this would be a good task to try, and decided to combine it with some techniques I learned in a recent episode of The Beauty of Conflict podcast. They talk about taking a breather when starting to feel stressed and moving your head from side to side whilst focusing on an object in each circumstance. It’s designed to make you become more mindful and in the moment, rather than reacting from a place of stress and pressure. Honestly, I found the entire task this week so helpful!
Stress is a funny thing. I always thought that it was the experience of going through intense bouts of something drastic (ie the death of a loved one, a huge workload or bullying at work, problems in a relationship etc.) but I think it’s important to understand that stress manifests in various ways, and they don’t always have to seem (or feel) so serious. Stress can be anything that makes you feel uncomfortable, and the definition that I find most resonates can be provided by Mind charity, which is:
“Our reaction to being placed under pressure – the feelings we get when we have demands placed on us that we find difficult to cope with.”
A lot of people don’t realise when they’re feeling stressed, or they are so used to throwing the term about that they subconsciously tell themselves its importance is minimised. But stress is a hugely important issue, and if it isn’t managed appropriately, it can have physical consequences such as headaches, colds, infections and muscle tensions as well as much more serious issues. It’s interesting when you think that a psychological condition can manifest physically in your body, and it’s really not something you want to underestimate.
Now this isn’t a post about stress, because really, what I’m writing about this week doesn’t even begin to touch the surface. I could write essay after essay and still not describe the complications of stress. But what I can do is talk about stress in the paradigm of mindfulness, and more specifically the mindfulness challenge.
So I wanted to share some examples of when I undertook this challenge (it did say to do it when you even feel remotely stressed, even if you think it’s no big deal). This isn’t an exhaustive list but just a few that I can clearly remember that I practiced the task:
Whilst my next door neighbour’s child was throwing their 50th tantrum that day and I couldn’t hear my work call properly because the sound was so loud coming through the walls.
When I felt overwhelmed with a heavy workload from both of my jobs.
When I had imposter syndrome and felt that I don’t do a good job for my writing job and the company must only be keeping me on because they don’t know how to fire me.
When I saw people posting racist drivel online without bothering to check the source or credibility of the post.
When I saw people judging other people on social media knowing nothing about their circumstances.
When I saw a Liverpool fan slating the Black Lives Matter protests because ‘they’re all thugs’ a few weeks back, before gathering to celebrate Liverpool’s football win, then moaning that ‘not all fans should be tarred with the same brush’ when some imbecil set a firework off at the Liver Building.
Basically just being on social media generally (time for another detox?).
When my dog wouldn’t stop barking at a squirrel/cat/train/car/just about anything that exists whilst I’m trying to concentrate.
When I realised that I had quicker internet on my Nokia 3310 than I do with an internet provider (Virgin) that I pay stupid amounts each month for (note – I didn’t have internet on my 3310).
The list can go on but that should give you an idea of the type of thing I focussed on! Every time I felt remotely stressed, no matter of its perceived insignificance, I stopped in my tracks, took three deep breaths and moved my head and neck from side to side before choosing something to focus my attention upon. The gentle movement also released some tension from my shoulders and neck that I get from sitting at my desk all day, so that was a bonus!
I strongly recommend this challenge – it’s a very simple technique that actually did make me feel a lot calmer. I’ve always struggled to get on board with what I call ‘airy fairy techniques’ as I just think they don’t ever work. But these techniques really did work for me, and it’s great that something so simple can be so effective! The challenge really did lessen the impact of stress and I will implement this one in my life moving forwards. I recommend you try it! If you do, let me know how you get on!
I’ve had a sneak peek of next week’s challenge and I have to say, it might even be my favourite one yet! Exciting, right?!
See you next week!