1. Self Check In
One of the first mindfulness practices I engage in every day is asking myself “how am I feeling today?” This sort of self check-in has become a daily habit of mine and has really helped me identify in my first waking hours what are going to be my biggest symptomatic hurtles and challenges that day. Being able to identify these early in the morning has helped me plan my day ahead of time so that I prioritize the tasks and responsibilities I know I can accomplish and maybe reorganize other tasks for the future. As many of you know symptoms change moment to moment and I just find that a self check in habit has been a strategy that helps me identify the symptoms that are most bothersome so that I may implement strategies that help reduce their severity
2. Not Multitasking
The second mindfulness practice I engage in on a regular basis is not multitasking. I know this sounds really silly, and possibly overly simple, but there are so many sources of stimulation in our lives today that we often times find ourselves multitasking when we didn't intend to. The biggest problem I have with multitasking is it reduces my ability to be aware of what is going on in my body at all times. I also find that multitasking often increases my stress and anxiety so reducing instances where I am multitasking or trying to multi task has helped me remain self-aware and reduce moments of anxiety and stress.
3. Breathing Exercises
The third mindfulness practice, or practices, I engage in are breathing exercises. I have two go to exercises that I utilize to help center myself in moments of both physical and mental overwhelm. I’ve found both of these practices very centering. They help me relax which often reduces the intensity of symptoms I am facing in that moment.
1. The first is Single Nostril Breathing also known as Alternate Nostril Breathing. I find that this practice calms me quite quickly and that if I can take 30-60 seconds to do it, it just helps. You can read more about the practice here at MindBodyGreen and of course watch the video linked above where I explain the practice.
2. The second is simple went single nostril breathing is either too awkward for that moment in time or I really can’t use my hands for what ever reason. This is a inhale/exhale counting exercise where I inhale for a count of 4, hold my breath for a count of 5 and then exhale for a count of 7. You can choose whatever count pattern you find works for you. This breathing exercise has similar benefits to the first but doesn’t require the use of my hands or arms to do so. Take a look at the video for more instruction.
4. Closing my eyes
The fourth mindfulness practice I engaging on a regular basis is a pretty simple one. I close my eyes. Closing my eyes helps reduce external stimulation that my mind is managing in the background. This is a simple way for me to basically shut off one source of stimulation so that I may concentrate on what I need to in the moment. I especially find this practice helpful when I am struggling to talk and get my ideas out but also in moments of stress where I simply need to reduce external sources of simulation. It may sound a little weird but closing your eyes is one of the ways we as humans relax. I mean, you sleep with your eyes closed…right. So this practice simply helps me re-center myself when I don't necessarily want to engage in a longer breathing exercise or I'm trying to communicate with others and struggling for the words. It just helps me be overall more mindful of what is going on with me internally in any moment and helps me stay aware of my body and what its telling me.
The final mindfulness practice I engage and regularly is meditation and while many of the practices described above could be considered meditation I tend to also do a formal practice in addition to the strategies described above. Meditation can take on any form and I want to be really clear about that. For me meditation is about finding a comfortable position and helping me quite my “chattery” mind so that I may calm my body and as a result reduce the intensity of my symptoms. But meditation might mean taking a walk, listening to music, dancing, using a guided meditation app or "journalling" (sp?) among many other forms. Basically this practice, similar to my self check in practice, is about taking the time to check in with my body and focus on giving it time to relax and recenter.
So those are some of my mindfulness practices that help me manage the impact of my symptoms on my day to day life. If you have any others you find are your go to’s I’d love to hear about them. Thank you so much for reading.
Take care and remember its about the journey…
Incorporating practices of mindfulness into my life has been game changing. Such practices have helped me identify places in my life that added stress and anxiety--which are exhausting in and of themselves--allowing me to make changes that have improved my daily live. While I have multiple mindfulness practices that I have incorporated into my life since first starting this journey 6 years ago the main one I started with was asking myself "how am I feeling today" as soon as I woke up. This allowed me to assess what changes I needed to make to my day so that I got through it more smoothly. Sometimes this meant taking sick time. Sometimes this meant working from home. Other times it meant eating really bland--I mean PLAIN food with no flavor, or taking a medication to manage my symptoms or even carefully choosing the fabrics I was wearing to reduce the impact of allodynia.
This practice is probably my most simple and impactful one I've incorporated. Being aware of what your facing, although it can change over the course of the day, can help reduce the impact of symptoms on your life or simply reduce your stress so that you can get to a better place sooner--at least that is the hopeful goal.
Out of my journey with mindfulness I discovered how deeply stressful clutter and excess was in my life. While minimalism may not be for everyone I discovered that by implementing principles of minimalism, i.e. Having only what you need and loving and using what you have, that I was able to reduce the number of items I had to take care of. This reduced stress by decreasing the amount of time I spend caring for, organizing and managing all of my belongings. This was by no means easy and I began this journey by diving into my wardrobe. I felt that this was a good place to start because minimizing my wardrobe didn't effect any of my family members and allowed me to work out the kinks of my own preferences about minimalism.
After tackling my wardrobe and creating 2 curated capsules totaling about 65 items I went on to minimize other areas of my home, from the kitchen, to the bathroom, bedroom, living room...etc. While this took getting my family members on board to some extent, most of what I minimized were items we simply didn't use or want. This process really taught me how stressful I find clutter and how reducing our belongings is a great strategy that reduces the amount of time and energy it takes to keep a clutter free home.
I'll be honest though--there is still clutter--just less of it. :)
3. Implementing a Sleep Routine
You've probably heard of a sleep routine before. This has been immensely helpful and although I still have issues getting deeply restful and restorative sleep I have found that having a sleep routine increases my success rate in getting restorative sleep.
For my sleep routine this means no screens a half our before bed and preferably an hour if possible. Reading or meditating in the evening just before bed and taking supplements that support sleep--sometimes these are herbal like CBD or Chamomile tea, other times these are mineral like manganese.
4. Intuitive Eating
This is one of the more recent strategies I've added to my repertoire. If you're like me and one of the manifestations of your condition is IBS you may find it intuitive eating helpful. My understanding of intuitive eating is that it is about listening to your body, reducing shame surrounding eating certain foods and most importantly recognizing the signals our body uses to indicate it is in need of nourishment.
I have found that eating intuitively and listening to my body has reduced the severity of my IBS symptoms. While it has not eliminated it completely the number of days where I am severely impacted has been reduced. I've also discovered that I'm better able to identify whether I'm thirsty versus hungry and when I am satiated or not. I'm also beginning to find this practice beneficial for reducing the voice in my head that says "you should eat this not that". It is help me manage my shame and self-consciousness around food and its relation to body image and self-esteem. All in all this is a type of mindfulness practice and I am thankful for what it has taught me thus far.
I hope these strategies help you too, or at least give you more information as you find what works for you on your journey. As always thanks for reading, take care and remember...its about the journey...
Hi, I'm Liz. I like to write about life and the wisdom I cull from it. I use words and images to inspire empathy and connection with each other and the world.