Six Mindfulness Tips To Help You Adjust Back To ‘Normal’ Life (By Zara Simmonds)
“Health is a state of complete harmony of the body, mind and spirit”
- B.K.S. Iyengar, Yoga Master
As the UK emerges from social restrictions this is the moment many of us may need to look after our mental wellbeing as we adjust to the potential strains that ‘normal’ life places on us. Mindfulness practice is one of the best ways to teach our brain how to adapt and manage stress.
What Is Mindfulness?
Mindfulness means maintaining a moment-by-moment awareness of our thoughts, feelings, bodily sensations, and surrounding environment, through a gentle, nurturing lens. When we practice mindfulness, our thoughts tune into what we're sensing in the present moment rather than rehashing the past or imagining the future.
I know full well the impact that a pressured lifestyle has on oneself. I became a ‘wellness warrior’ nearly a decade ago following a very stressful career in television, balancing the endless demands of a role I loved with the needs of three young children. When life is a constant juggling act, many of us try to function on an ‘empty tank’ being there for everyone else, but not giving ourselves time to reboot. You can’t be there for others if you don’t take care of yourself first.
My specialism is families and children, and I’m privileged to be able to work closely with schools, charities, community groups and privately, helping people learn to self-regulate when they are struggling or feeling overwhelmed. It’s no surprise to hear that my work has been especially needed this past year, and I’ve moved my work entirely online - I teach people how to overcome self-sabotaging thoughts, how to self-regulate and ways to develop a more positive mindset.
Why We Need It, Now More Than Ever
In recent times, and certainly since the pandemic we’ve seen an undeniable rise in anxiety across the board, especially in young people, which is a huge concern. I think mindfulness and mental health education should be accessible to all and offered as part of the national curriculum, as everyone deserves good mental health.
Understanding how the brain works and knowing how to settle and calm the mind is fundamental to wellbeing.
When we’re stressed our brain’s alarm system, the amygdala, floods our body with adrenaline and cortisol which makes us feel awful and we can’t think straight. Hugely helpful when we’re in real danger, but not so helpful when it fires off under perceived threat sending us into fight, flight or freeze mode.
As modern life throws so much at us, our amygdala is continually activated so we need to learn how to manage that. Here are some tips that may help you adjust back to ‘normal’ life…
So How Can We Feel Less Stressed? Some of you may be feeling particularly anxious about returning to old rhythms & habits. Don’t be afraid to take your time and only do things that work for you.
Tip #1: Respond, don’t REACT!
Be mindful and try to live in the moment. Being fully engaged helps us cope better with difficult situations, and stops us over-reacting. We can’t stop challenging things happening to us, but we can change how we respond.
Pause: a quick pause can help you reset, so try and check in when you feel yourself becoming tense.
Tip #2: Set Boundaries
Give yourself permission to unplug and regroup without feeling guilty! Set time aside doing something that makes you happy, nourished and fulfilled – whether it be painting, walking, reading or napping – there are no rules! The sleep police are not going to arrest you!
Ring Fence ‘Me Time’: Give yourself time and space to reboot.
Be Gentle & Kind To Yourself: Treat yourself as you do others.
Tip #3: Breathe
Breath is your body’s best friend! It’s the bridge between the mind and body. It overrides the amygdala, reducing anger, anxiety & stress. Deep breaths calm the nerves and helps with clarity & concentration. Use a slow and steady breath - inhale through the nose, with a longer exhale through the mouth.
Petal Breathing: A brilliant way to distract and refocus the mind, as well as settle it. Clench fists. Take in a breath and as you breathe out unfurl fists like petals on a flower. Breathe in, clench, breathe out, unclench. Let any negative energy leave you and flow out into the room.
Tip #4: Introduce ‘Down Time’ Into Your Day
Taking time to pause and reflect is key to wellbeing, self-esteem & emotional resilience. Just a few moments of relaxation aids mood, can improve sleep and helps with concentration. Don’t worry if you can’t settle immediately - the most important thing is creating new habits.
Try Apps: ‘ Headspace’ and ‘Insight Timer’ are wonderful and very easy to use.
Mindfulness Meditations on YouTube & Spotify: Mark Williams is very good.
Try Classical or Soothing Music: If a guided meditation doesn’t suit play something calming and imagine letting each part of your body ‘go’.
Listen To An Audio Book: Rich-toned voices like Stephen Fry reading the Harry Potter series are very soothing, so even though you’re not ‘officially’ meditating you are still de-stressing as well as refocusing your mind and sparking imagination.
Tip #5: Be Grateful and Stay Positive
Reminding yourself of the good things in your life sets a strong positive mindset which in turn develops self-confidence and boosts self-esteem. Although there will be hard days, there will always be something to be thankful for.
Grateful List: On waking think of x3 things in your life to be grateful and thankful for. This will set your positive intention for the day. You can take this further and ALSO write x3 things at the end of the day to remind you of the good experiences you’ve had, no matter how small.
Believe In Yourself: Only think of ourself in a positive way, or create a vision board to focus your goals and boost your confidence.
Tip #6: Massage
Self-massage improves circulation and stimulates lymphatic system, which makes you feel better, relaxes muscles and calms the nerves. We’ve all missed showing affection to loved ones outside our household, so show it to yourself instead if you aren’t ready to hug others yet!
Butterfly Taps: Give yourself a simple massage - let your fingers lightly flutter/tap like a butterfly all over your head, face, ears, neck, arms and hands.
Wrist EFT Tapping: Emotional Freedom Tapping (EFT) is a powerful alternative stress relief based on the combined principles of ancient Chinese acupressure and modern psychology. Using acupressure points on the body. Tap wrist pulse points together. Amazing for calming worry.
As we step into this next phase of the pandemic be conscious of your approach - whether you’re keen to dive in head first or just testing the waters. Remember to listen to your mind and body, and decide the pace that’s right for you.
Hi everyone! I’m Zara Simmonds, a London-based Mindfulness, Resilience and Relaxation Coach helping people of all ages feel less stressed and anxious. Being mindful is essential for physical, mental and emotional health, so
when the lovely Nina asked me to write a guest blog I jumped at the chance as our goals are so aligned…
If you would like more techniques you can book a session via firstname.lastname@example.org
Or find out more www.zarasimmonds.co.uk.