Sydney Gideon, LSW

It’s no secret we live in a very fast paced, high stress world. With the influx of social media, news outlets, increasing expectations both personally and professionally, it’s no surprise many of us experience burnout, compassion fatigue, and just overall exhaustion. While there are many things we do have control of, we cannot control unexpected everyday stressors. However, we do have the ability to shift how we respond to these stressors and the impact we allow them to have on our day and mindset.

When we’re constantly focused on the next thing on our to do list, a potential career change, or our future with a partner, we miss things happening in the present moment. Much of our stress and anxiety is exacerbated by continuous thoughts about the future despite functioning in the present. The term self-care is something frequently thrown out when expressing stress or anxiety but what does this term really mean and what is its relationship to mindfulness. Exploring these two concepts are crucial in reconnecting with the present moment and shifting the way we relate and respond to the world around us.

When it comes to self-care or mindfulness many people immediately jump to meditation. Within the world of meditation, the application I’m continuously drawn to is “Happy Not Perfect”. This resource has countless meditations for every occasion and the majority of them are free. The founder of this app has also come up with 5 simple things all individuals can do to lead a more mindful life.

Breathing

When an individual asks what they can do to help calm their mind and anxiety, responding “breathing” is frequently met with a confused and discouraged look. However, belly breathing can allow you to calm your mind, relax your body, and return back to the present moment. To engage in belly breathing, sit comfortably and place your hands on your stomach. When you inhale, focus on breathing the air into your lungs feeling your belly expand as you do so. When you exhale, focus on feeling your belly contract towards your spine. The best part about this mindfulness technique is it can be used anywhere, anytime.

Walking

The consistent motion of feeling your foot hit the ground can be extremely calming when done so mindfully. When partaking in this action outside, not only is it grounding but you’ll maintain a connection with nature and the world around you while also absorbing more vitamin D. Many of us go to work every day and sit in an office until we leave having very little contact with the outdoors. Chicago winters can be challenging so while it’s still nice out have your morning coffee or tea while taking a brief walk outside. Focus on your feet making contact with the ground. It can largely shift your perspective.

Eating Without Your Phone

During the work day many of us view lunch time as a chance to catch up on our social media, scrolling through instagram and twitter, barely paying attention to the fact that we’re eating. Although it may be difficult, making the conscious decision to put your phone away during lunch can allow you to fully experience and appreciate the food you’re eating and the nutrients entering your body. While you’re at it, try not to eat your lunch at your desk. Moving to a new location, potentially outside, can make a positive shift for the remainder of your day.

Gratitude Diary

In life, negative words, feelings, and situations are consistently more present in our brain. For some reason, one negative thing can outweigh a million good things having a large impact on our mood. To counteract our tendency to focus on the negative, create a gratitude journal and commit to writing 2-3 things a day you’re grateful for. There is good in every day it just tends to be overshadowed by the bad. Bringing conscious awareness to things we’re grateful for is extremely important for our mental and emotional health.

Happiness Workout

If meditation has not worked for you or your skepticism prevents you from attempting, try incorporating a happiness workout into your daily routine. On the app “Happy Not Perfect”, there’s a happiness workout, “which is a science-backed daily, multi-step tool aimed at millennials. Users are guided through a five-minute interactive ritual and practice to relax, process thoughts, and engage in expert-led techniques to foster a little more “happiness” and a little less stress.” As a society, I believe we can all benefit from a little more happiness and a little less stress.

If you’ve found yourself struggling with stress and anxiety and are having difficulty implementing mindfulness, it may be useful to try counseling. Contact Symmetry Counseling at 312-578-9990 to set up an appointment with one of our very skilled therapists today!