There are solutions to managing stress in the media every week, and though I tried many of them, mindfulness was the one that provided me with the best result.
Mindfulness begins with a focus on your bodily sensations and your surroundings. To start, experts say to choose an activity you do each day and, for a few moments while you’re doing it, pay attention to every sensation – sight, hearing, taste, smell, and touch.
Initially, being mindful was a challenge for me because many of the things I do in a typical day are done without much thought. I had to make a conscious effort to slow down, while deciding which activity I wanted to focus on. Doing yoga helped clear my mind to be more in the moment.
During a recent business trip to France, I took myself out of my comfort zone as a way to incorporate mindfulness. I arrived from the airport feeling exhausted and jet lagged. In the past, I would head to my hotel room and eat a breakfast bar instead of venturing out for dinner. With mindfulness on my mind, I decided to ignore my fatigue and find a restaurant.
A small bistro near the hotel caught my eye. I was quickly seated at a small corner table by a waiter who seemed irritated with my limited French. When I heard him comment in English that the kitchen would be closing soon, I scanned the menu and ordered onion soup, shrimp salad and a glass of red wine.
Instead of feeling rushed and upset with the waiter’s curt tone, I decided to enjoy this moment. Due to the late hour there were only a few people having dinner. Every table was covered in white linen tablecloths with flickering candles, providing a warm ambience to the small space. I relaxed as I looked around the simple, yet elegant bistro, noticing the country french decor in warm hues of yellow and blue.
When my food was brought to the table, it was beautifully presented – the bubbling, perfectly browned cheese overhung an ivory onion soup crock and the colorful salad topped with large shrimp made me salivate. But it was the savory aromas that brought forth memories of my Canadian grandparents. I remembered the French songs we used to sing and their wonderful onion soup recipe. Those memories and the delicious dinner erased any fatigue, allowing me to fully enjoy the experience.
Since that trip, I’ve made an effort to listen to my body and identify the signs of stress. I have to remember to clear my mind and focus on my senses and surroundings – the smell of fresh brewed coffee, a song on the radio or freshly fallen snow – for being mindful will reset my energy and mood to take on the day ahead.
For more examples of how this will help you get the most out of your day as well as a full night’s rest, check-out “Frazzled,” written by Ruby Wax, who holds a Master’s degree in Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT), from Oxford University. Simply said the key to practicing MBCT is to pay attention.