It’s Fall. Such a festive time of year. Walk around Center City and you will see the trailings of leaves across Rittenhouse Square. A chill in the air provides a sense of relief from the hot Philly summer finally passed.
Summer is over, and for many, this also means vacations have come and gone, and schedules are starting to fill up again. Increased activities, preparations for the holidays and the beginning of a new year. There’s an upsurge in productive and creative energy in the Fall, however, what this also means is an upsurge in stress.
Below, I’ve created a list of 5 simple ways you can create more space in your day utilizing mindfulness to prevent burnout and overwhelm.
No. 1: Create a morning ritual
What helps you feel centered and at ease? Is it slowly sipping on a cup of coffee or tea? Sitting silently in meditation? The sounds of a certain musician or instrument? Whatever it is, see if you can find at least 5-10 minutes of time in your morning to pause, slow down, and engage in a mindful activity (see more on mindfulness below). Many people find it most effective for this to be the first thing they do before engaging with work or family, because once the mind starts to focus on tasks, it can be difficult to stop. But, find the time that works for you.
Feels like your mornings are hectic enough and you don’t have the time? Take a moment to evaluate your current morning routine and see if there might be a few minutes you may spend doing some other task (checking IG, straightening the house, answering emails, body checking) that you would exchange for a few minutes of mindfulness.
***A few words on mindfulness. Mindfulness is the intentional focus on one thing in the moment without judgement. It is drawing your attention to the present and being with it (without having to plan or remember or evaluate or create, etc). Just you and the moment. The mind can often struggle with this, because we live in a world that habituates the mind to attempt to multitask. If fact, the brain actually doesn’t know how to multitask. So, when you feel like you are producing more by putting your attention on many tasks at once, you are actually causing the brain to frantically skip from one task to the other, overworking and exhausting the brain. No wonder we experience burnout!
No. 2: Transitions are golden opportunities to create space and rest
What do you normally do when you transition from one activity/task to the other? When you’re walking from class to your work study? When your riding SEPTA or driving down Market St? How about when you’re waiting on the elevator or in line at OCF Coffeehouse to order your afternoon Pumpkin Spice Latte? If you’re like me, and many of the rest of us, you’ll likely notice that you’re somehow occupied, most likely by your phone- returning a phone call or text, answering an email, mindlessly scrolling. There’s no shame in this! Its amazing how trained our brains can become to pull out our phones and fill the space between tasks. It easily become an automatic behaviors.
These transitions are golden opportunities to reset, recharge and recenter between tasks, activities or roles. Try retraining your brain to breathe and attend to the sensations you can experience around you during these times. Instead of pulling out your phone, notice what you see, hear, smell. Take deep breaths and feel the breath release tension and create space in your body and mind. Resist the urge to answer your email.. it will get answered eventually, but is it really as urgent as it feels? Reducing the sense of urgency in answering others or attending to communications has the potential to significantly reduce stress. So, let your daily transitions be a way to practice this. Breathe. In this moment, your focus and priority is to transition mindfully, allowing the brain and body a moment to rest.
No. 3: Put down your phone
Ok, I know I just talked about this, but its important enough to repeat. When are you on your phone where you do not need to be? Find moments to set the phone down. Heck, move it out of sight, and engage in your life in the moment. Look into the eyes of your child, embrace a loved one, watch the sunset, stretch your body, read a book or magazine. You will not regret this added space, I promise!
No. 4: Nighttime Gratitude
Before drifting off to sleep (or, let’s be real, falling asleep to the tv), take a few moments to deepen your breath and say or write what you are grateful for from the day. Accessing gratitude helps the brain better cope with stressors and can provide you a reminder of moments that were not taken up by tasks or responsibilities. Remembering the space you had creates more feelings of spaciousness and relaxation. This will also help to reinforce the mindfulness practices you are integrating into your day.
No 5: Get the support you need
Seeking support, whether from a loved one or professional, can help you create an intentional mindfulness practice and increase accountability and effectiveness. Find a buddy who can implement these practices as well and check in with each other on how its going. Find a therapist who specializes in mindfulness, meditation or anxiety and stress reduction and can help you create a balanced plan that works for you and your unique schedule. A therapist can also help you process through and heal any beliefs that are getting in the way of these practices, such as “You are not allowed to rest” or “You should be doing more/better”, etc.
Melanie Taylor, LMFT, RYT-500 is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist and certified yoga instructor. She specializes in mindfulness based therapies, such as DBT and IFS, a well as yoga therapy, where she guides clients in breathing, meditation and movement practices to increase a sense of peace in the body and mind. She has expertise in the treatment of disordered eating and body image, trauma, anxiety and depression. She sees clients in the Center City, Philadelphia and Bryn Mawr office.