A Simple Solution to a Stress-free, Healthy Day

Whether you’re a busy mom at home or at home and the office, chances are you and your health could benefit from less stress in your day to day life. Juggling family, work and taking care of yourself can seem like a game that you will never win.

Maybe you have found yourself saying things like…

o I am always doing several things at once but have noticed that I am making silly mistakes, lack patience with others or just don’t really enjoy anything when I am doing it.
o My day feels like a long to-do list, one that never get’s completely done. Adrenaline has become my main source of fuel.
o I am too busy to make healthy choices.

If this describes you, don’t despair. A little insight and a new healthy approach will leave you feeling much more empowered and in control.

A key culprit to a stressful day is multitasking. Yes, I know we have been brought up to pride ourselves on the fact that we could eat our lunch at the computer while answering emails and talking on the phone. But this in fact, does not always lead to increased productivity. Researchers now say that the mind may not be responding as well to our division of labor. And the byproduct a lack of presence or mindfulness is not good for our health or our work-leaving us feeling more frazzled and more likely to make silly mistakes, unhealthy choices or respond to our tasks at hand in a less than playful manner.

But what is mindfulness anyway? And how can it benefit us? Mindfulness in the form of meditation originated from the Buddhist teachings from more than 2500 years ago. It is a practice of paying attention to what is happening from moment to moment in a nonjudgmental way. Mindfulness is a way to break free from being on autopilot. By paying attention to our feelings, behaviors, thoughts, environments, and relationships without judgment or condemnation, we wake up to the experience of what is going on around us and within us while it is actually happening. The key being while it is actually happening. This allows us to make informed decisions about new directions.

To experience optimum health, eating nutritious meals is a given. However, as in the example given earlier you may often find yourself eating your lunch at your computer while performing other duties like answering email and returning phone calls. Later that night, you get out of your work clothes and put on your favorite pair of jeans, only to uncover that they are very snug. You try to remember what and how much you ate at lunch, but can’t.

Here is how mindfulness around meal time can help. Instead of rushing through meals, doing two or three things at once, with hardly a thought as to what we are eating, where the food comes from and how it might impact our bodies, minds and spirits, we can do something different. We can be mindful. We can slow down and pay attention in ways that will increase our enjoyment, make us more aware of our consumption and our relationship to food.

Before eating ask yourself:

o Am I really hungry? Or am I eating because I am feeling stressed, bored with a task at hand, or just needing to take a break?
o Where am I? Sitting at your kitchen table away from the TV and computer can help you stay focused on what and how much you are consuming. Or is there a place to eat outdoors or in nature to create a space for peace, concentration and fresh air during mealtime? Some added food for thought…If you are eating at a restaurant and a waiter brings you your meal, take a few minutes to capture the beauty of the display or presentation….then start eating…slowly.
o What am I feeling or thinking about while I am eating? Remembering an argument you had with your teenage son or a deadline for work may cause you to eat more. A good exercise to break any automatic reactions to food that you might be having that don’t support healthy eating is to slowly pick up a bite size piece of food with your fork and study it, examine its surface, feels it texture, smell it. Put the food in your mouth and let it linger there for a few seconds. Then eat as slowly as possible.

Being mindful at meal time can lead to improved eating habits and also fuller experiences in other areas of your life. How can you streamline your day to allow yourself to be more fully present in the task at hand? Can phone calls and emails be returned during certain hours of the day, freeing you up to be fully present to play with the kids or do critical thinking work for a project at the office? Before you start the project, consider activating your mindfulness by doing one of the below simple exercises:

o Close your eyes for five seconds
o Take three deep breaths
o Notice your breathing
o Say to yourself: I am grateful for the opportunity to make a significant contribution to our team’s performance or I am grateful for the opportunity to pick up my kids from school and hear about their day.

These exercises can help you transition into a more peaceful, productive and enjoyable task or experience.
Incorporating mindfulness into your daily life may take a little practice. Old habits and patterns don’t get broken overnight. Be patient with yourself and make note of your increased zest for life and all of its many “to dos.” Soon you will be amazed at how much you do get done and how much more you enjoy doing it!