• Stressed out – What if there was another way? Learn 3 easy 60-second or less Life Hacks to help you find the still point in the middle of a busy day.

    Well-being seems to come as much from the approach we bring to our daily experiences, from how we choose to see it, as from what’s actually happening and what we decide to do.

    What if we could cultivate a different approach to those moments when we feel frazzled, stressed out and overwhelmed? How would that change our lives?

    Life Hack 1 – Stressed out? Just breathe!

    Ever noticed when we are anxious, stressed out or worried our breath changes? Skeptical?

    Try short exercise:

    Close your eyes, and bring to mind a stressful or difficult situation, not the worst ever just something from the past or that’s going on right now. Replay it like a movie in the mind, seeing, hearing and feeling what is going on. Of course you can stop this at any time and open your eyes. As you replay this, what do you notice? Maybe the breath is shorter, quicker; perhaps you notice a tight jaw or tension somewhere in the body? Maybe lots of thoughts crowding in?

    It may be strange to hear, but the brain really does not know the difference between the real and the imagined, we really can get caught up in our thoughts and it feels as if we are really living those thoughts. So what can we do when we notice we are stress out or the stress levels are building?

    Just Breathe:

    You may like to put your hands on your tummy inhaling normally, then as you exhale make your mouth into a shape as if you are going to silently whistle and breathe out through the mouth. You may find that the exhalation gets longer and as you continue to breathe the body settles into the present moment. That’s it! You have just taken yourself out of the stress reaction and found the still point. Repeat whenever you feel yourself getting stressed out.

    Life Hack 2 – Dropping into the Senses

    Often when we get very busy and caught up in our day, we are not actually in the present moment. Life goes on around us and we live in what we could call ‘automatic pilot’ It’s a skill that our brains have devised to allow us to get on with the everyday repetitive tasks without having to think about how to do them. We can be doing one thing and thinking about something else.

    This can be a good thing as we don’t have to think about how to get dressed in the morning, but it can also be dangerous as we are missing massive chunks of our day, doing things the way we have always done them – skillfully or not!

    When we find ourselves getting stressed out rehashing the past or rehearsing the future make a choice to drop into the senses.

    The options for this Life Hack are:

    • Sight – spend a few moments consciously seeing the colours, shapes and textures in the world around you. Really see the richness.
    • Hearing – spend a few moments consciously hearing the sounds around you, letting the sounds come to you rather than searching for them.
    • Smells – spend a few moments consciously smelling the air around you, the cup of coffee, the air.
    • Taste – spend a few moments consciously tasting the air, the coffee or a few bites of food.
    • Body Sensations – spend a few moments consciously feeling the body, maybe the sensation of the bottom on the chair, touch of clothing, air on the skin.

    When the mind wanders, which it will, it’s what the mind does, chose to bring it back to exploring your chosen sense. We will no doubt recognize some patterns and even start to become aware of our likes and dislikes, for example we like green trees but dislike the sounds of dogs barking, can we be open to noticing what happens with both experiences? We can notice how often these judgments arise and how attached we are to their point of view.

    These are the basic operating systems of the mind. When we practice dropping into our senses which are only available for us in the present moment, we can notice what’s going on for us right now as if we were noticing the weather rather than getting caught up in the past or worrying about the future. It helps us to wake up to our lives, to really live them, explore them, enjoy them each moment at a time.

    Life Hack 3 – Practice having an attitude of Kindness “What do I need to help me get through this time?”

    Life isn’t difficult because we are doing it wrong; it’s just that at times life can be difficult! When faced with difficulties or feeling stressed out, our minds tend to be preoccupied with worries. We get caught up in a train of thought or entangled in the emotion of what is going on for us; we feel it in our bodies. Memories from the past and anxiety for the future add extra weight to what is going on for us. The end result is that our attention is not really on what we are doing – we are once again caught up in that automatic pilot mentioned earlier.

    A simple act of kindness can be the balm that soothes our pain.

    It is the intention to take care of ourselves and can be particularly helpful when facing challenges. At these times try asking yourself “what do I need to help me get through this time?” If it feels strange to ask this, just notice that, knowing that we can offer kindness from where ever we are, whatever we are feeling. Just by asking ourselves this little question, we have dropped out of reacting and into the present moment where we have more choice about what to do next. The answer may  something like to take a breath, drop into our senses and really ‘be’ in the moment, or perhaps stand up and stretch a little or take ourselves for a walk. It does not need to be something huge, just something that can help us to take care of ourselves.

    Kristen Neff, Ph.D advises that we should all try giving ourselves a hug in times of suffering and difficulty several times a day. Research shows that physical touch releases a hormone called oxytocin that provides a sense of security, soothes distressing emotions, and calms the stress reaction. Who knew that we had this inbuilt ability?

    So I promised you 3 Life Hacks that take 60 seconds or less that can help you cultivate a different approach to those moments when we feel frazzled, stressed out and overwhelmed. Think of these short practices as giving yourself a present, the gift of time just for you. You never know it might just make a difference.