By: Tanvi Maharaja
As a working mom of a young one, stress is no biggie! Except, it is! The minutiae of work-related stresses, juggling a social life with quality family time, pursuing continuing education, and domestic responsibilities, it is not uncommon for me to be all wound up some day and freak out over nothing. Thankfully, my family knows this and have developed their own strategies to cope with me – the most successful one being to hear me out. 😉
I have been making a conscious and deliberate effort to manage stress in the past year. This involves little reminders to be grateful for what I have, being kind to strangers, asking myself if something I worry about is going to affect my life 5 years from now, and practicing mindfulness.
Mindfulness involves being aware of one’s surroundings, sensations, and breathing, while trying to not get drifted away by passing thoughts. It essentially means being in the moment. Really absorbing what the moment comprises of. My favorite time to practice this is while having my morning coffee. I try and pay complete attention to all associated sensations – how warm the cup feels in my hand, how the steam feels against my face when I take a sip, the smell, the flavor, the little dance the steam does as it escapes from the cup, the physical sensation of the cup against my lips and the coffee going down my throat, the sounds around me, the couch feeling soft against my back, the dim lights of the room, the pressure of my hands on the cup, and breathing pattern as I sip and relax. The other time I like to practice mindfulness is driving to and from work. Feeling the pressure of the wheel in my hands, the sights on the roads, the smells and sounds that surround me- these sensations along with relaxed breathing techniques get me ready for the day and help me unwind after a long day at work.
Needless to say, this is easier said than done. The mind loves to fly off on a tangent and think about the most irrelevant things – the day’s meetings, to-do lists, the upcoming social event, dinner menu, you name it. The real struggle is staying in the here and now. That really sums up what mindfulness means. A few minutes a day helps me feel relaxed, calm, and re-invigorated to carpe diem!
Mindfulness has other benefits too, such as increased focus and attention, improved memory, increased compassion and empathy, increased self-efficacy, decreased reactivity and increased flexibility of response to stressors (Davis & Hayes, 2011). Mindful eating habits have been demonstrated to help correct unhealthy eating patterns, combat obesity, and restore balanced diet. Apps such as Headspace, Calm, Smiling Mind, Buddhify, and Insight Timer help with learning these techniques, practice relaxation, and manage stress. The benefits of practicing mindfulness are multifold. It is essentially the need of the hour during today’s stressful times. With just a little patience and practice, it can unlock the doors to a healthier and happier life.