Have you ever found yourself racing from pillar to post, scrambling to get it all done, and secretly wondering how all of the balls you have in the air are all still up there? Most of us have found ourselves in that spot (sometimes, more often than we’d like to admit!). And, if we’re honest with ourselves, it’s usually followed with a terror that all of those balls won’t stay up there and that when they come crashing down, there will be hell to pay. So, to get our eyes clearly focused on this, let’s take a quick look at just some of the ways our energy is generally directed to things ‘outside’ of ourselves.
- Work (projects, travel, clients, etc.)
- Kiddos (fixing dinner, school shopping, chauffeuring, etc.)
- Volunteer projects
- Driving from place to place
- Engaging with friends/family
- Any activity that pulls your attention ‘out there’ and away from what’s present with you in any moment
It is important to note that being pulled outside of ourselves, especially for activities that we enjoy, endeavors that are important to us, or people we love is not a bad thing. On the contrary, these activities, endeavors and people are often the source of great joy, fulfillment and connection in our lives. And, we wouldn’t trade these for the world. It’s just that sometimes, even when everything is our lives is really, really good, we get overwhelmed with the sheer volume of it all. So, what’s a busy professional to do? How do we handle all of our responsibilities and keep our sanity, too? Sometimes, you just gotta go inside.
What do I mean by going inside? I mean taking the time- even if it’s in five minute increments throughout your day- to check back in with yourself. To figure out what’s happening inside your body. To figure out what emotions are present with you so that they don’t hijack the precious attention you need for your super-human juggling act. To become aware of the incessant stream of chatter that’s been in your head, running like a program that’s not responding behind the scenes of your day. To just simply be there, in that moment, with only yourself. What a gift those moments are when we can give them to ourselves!! So, let me give you some simple suggestions for how to do this, since I know you’re reading this in between clients or perhaps in between one kiddos’ play practice and the other one’s swim meet. Read on and go create your own sense of calm…
When you can take a minute (Or three? Maybe five?) to check in with you:
- When you go to the bathroom in between clients/hearings/meetings/appointments
- While standing on line at the grocery store (because, do you really need to read the Enquirer??)
- While taking a shower (unless you have time for a bath, then kudos to you!)
- When you first get in your car, before you turn the ignition on (or when you’re about to get out of your car, after you have turned the ignition off)
- If you’re at lunch or dinner alone and waiting for your food
- While you’re getting your hair cut or colored
- At stop lights
- While you’re waiting outside school/sports/movies/etc. for your kiddos
- First thing in the morning, before you crawl out of bed (or last thing at night, before you go to sleep)
- In the elevator (No more awkward silence! You’ll be checking in with you!)
Easy ways to bring your attention, and your energy, back inside:
- Take long, slow, deep breaths and follow your breath down into your belly. Breathing steadily and slowly activates your parasympathetic nervous system, which tells your brain and the rest of your body that everything is ok. Try for at least three to five full, intentional breaths. Often, we get so stressed out that we don’t breathe at all. We exhale and just don’t take in any more oxygen until our bodies force us to take a big gulp of air. Oxygen fuels our brains, and our cells. We need a steady supply for our bodies to relax knowing they can complete the millions of internal processes needed in order to sustain our lives. So, breathe. Breathe deeply. And notice as your body starts to calm down (which, in turn, will calm your brain, your emotions, and the internal chatter down).
- Find your grounding. You may be sitting in your car or standing in line at the grocery store; it doesn’t matter. What is holding you? What is supporting your body right now? Can you feel the car seat supporting your weight, and your body as you prepare to turn the car on and drive? What does that weightedness feel like- is it more solid and grounded than when you were zooming through space a moment ago? Can you relax into the stillness of being seated, even if just for a minute? Or, if you’re on your feet, what does it feel to have gravity anchoring your feet to the floor? What happens when you shift your weight from one foot to the other? Do you feel more stable and grounded when you equally balance your weight between both feet and maybe let your knees soften so they’re relaxed and not locked? What happens in your body when you let yourself feel the support of the seat or the ground? Is there a calming or a ‘coming down’ into the present moment?
Many times, the experience of stress and overwhelm leave us feeling fluttery, off balance, and like we might lift off the ground in a spiral of anxiety at any moment. Grounding helps alleviate that, helps tune us in to the support that does exist for us, and gives us something solid to focus on instead of the whirlwinds that threaten to envelop us.
- Orient to your surroundings. When we’re cruising through time and space at 100 miles per hour, we don’t always take a moment to actually arrive in each place we find ourselves. Orienting can definitely help with this. As human animals, we are gifted with brains that take in and filter hundreds of thousands of bits of information in any given moment. Part of this information comes from our surroundings, from knowing where we are, and from orienting to that place in which we find ourselves. When we look around our environment, taking in details about the room, the people in it, and our surroundings in general, we get a sense of where we are. We can intuitively assess how safe and comfortable we feel. We can more consciously be in our space. So, I invite you to take a moment to look around. What do you see? By whom are you surrounded? Are there certain colors, pictures, shapes that draw you in and which you find pleasing? With what, if anything, in your environment do you feel a connection?
When you have spent whatever time feels good orienting, notice if you feel more present, calmer, or more aware. Chances are good that some of the stress and overwhelm you were feeling will have dissipated by the time you’re done!
- Self-soothing. Have you ever given yourself a hug? Placed your hands on your belly when it was upset? Rubbed your temples or the back of your head when you got a headache? These are all forms of self-soothing. One easy and very comforting way to go inside is to find different ways to hold ourselves that feel nurturing and soothing. Some people feel instantly better when they put their hand over their heart. For others, one hand on their heart and one on their belly is what brings peace and calm. Figure out what works for you and try it out. One exercise you can try is to put your right hand under your left armpit area so your right arm crosses your heart. Then, take your left arm across the right arm and bring your left hand to rest on your right upper arm. It feels like a little hug!
Take a moment and feel what happens inside your body when you have placed your hands in a nurturing way. Many people report that it feels like there is an opening of space inside them when they’re soothed in this manner. Others report a deep calm. Try a few different hand positions out. You will have your own unique experience!
Hopefully, you’ll find (or create) lots of pockets of time in your schedule where you can come back in to your own internal space and can find greater peace and calm. Drop me a note in the comments below and let me know which of these becomes your favorite go-to practice, or what practices you have found or created on your own that help you when the outside world is spinning.
Looking forward to hearing from you!