I have to admit, I would cringe when I would hear people yelling “Wake Up!” at my kids’ hockey and lacrosse games. My skin would literally crawl. Little did I know it was exactly what I needed to do. So, WAKE UP! I did. Or, I am at least trying to do.
My solution? “Mindfulness”. Simple, yet not simplistic. Greater Good Magazine, Science-Based Insights for a Meaningful Life, defines mindfulness as this; “Mindfulness means maintaining a moment-by-moment awareness of our thoughts, feelings, bodily sensations, and surrounding environment.
Mindfulness also involves acceptance, meaning that we pay attention to our thoughts and feelings without judging them—without believing, for instance, that there’s a “right” or “wrong” way to think or feel in a given moment. 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.”
Now more main stream then ever, Mindfulness is showing up in leadership development, and businesses all over North America. A fad? perhaps, although for those who practice Mindfulness it is a necessary way of life. It brings you to a greater state of calmness and the ability to deal with the daily stresses of life, wasting less negative emotional and mental energy.
In a 2011 article by Susan Crompton, “What’s stressing the stressed? Main sources of stress among workers“, published by Statistics Canada, 1 in 4 Canadian workers described their day as highly stressful. Main causes of stress where noted as being 62% work related. Time and finances were tied at 12%, follow by family at 8%, other 6%. And that was 6 years ago. Most parents who put their kids in organized sports are either both working full time, or one full time, and the second parent part-time. Stressed out at work, and then have to get your kid to a game that is an hour away, on a Tuesday night in January, doesn’t decrease the stress load! (and add to that the commute home from work, and be there an hour before the game starts!!) It’s no wonder we get some crazy behaviours as spectators, and even coaches welling “WAKE UP!” Perhaps, directed at our kids, but it is something that parents need to take a closer look at for themselves.
Hence a practice of mindfulness. And may I add, building resilience to help us all wake up and manage the daily stresses of working and family commitments. Being aware of our own thoughts, as well as decreasing the reactions to triggers is how we can start to wake up and make our reactions a choice. You can’t always choose the situations you are facing, but you can choose to react or respond. Don’t get me wrong, this is not about being walked over, and putting up with behaviours that are down right rude and even damaging. This is about dealing with situations with more acceptance. Meaning, move the emotion out of the way, so you can access your wisdom to deal with it more effectively. Holly Rogers, MD, writes a great article in the most recent issue of Mindful (December, 2017) magazine dispelling some of the misunderstandings of acceptance. “To be clear, the kind of acceptance I am talking about does not require you to give up or be passive in the face of disappointments. There is nothing passive about acceptance,” she explains. Pain x Resistance = Suffering. Its the resistance that is in our control.
The resistance, comes from the narrative in our heads and the emotions that take us over. The yelling we do at ourselves that we don’t even recognize or the non-stop chatter that causes the resistance. What is the narrative in your head that may be talking you out of changing jobs, starting your own business, or not speaking up to a spectator yelling at an 8 year old kid?
There are some simple techniques that can get you started on the road to mindfulness to help you start to see the non-stop chatter that may be blocking you. Breathing: a tool we can use anytime, anywhere can help us to decrease the mental chatter and manage the emotions. Breathing deeply for 5 seconds on the inhale, and 5 seconds on the exhale is enough to start to decrease the stress and give you the space to deal with issues in the moment.
Here is a simple tip to get you started. Take 3 conscious breaths. Feel the air come in through your nostrils and back out. Don’t think about it, just experience the 3 breaths. Try to inhale for 5 seconds and exhale for 5 seconds. Using this technique a few times a day, and you are now on your journey to starting a practice of mindfulness, and giving your brain a break from the constant dialogue that may not be serving you. And for those perfectionists in the group. It is all about practice, and never about perfection! Olympic athletes didn’t get there by trying something just a few times. It’s a daily practice, until it becomes a habit.
So WAKE UP! to the chatter in your head, start to recognize the self talk that maybe blocking you. Be present in what you are doing in the moment, take a deep breath (or 3) and enjoy the game (whatever that game is for you).
Melanie Wanless, CEC, CTDP, Chief Yeller, What Not To Yell Inc.
(Thanks to Coach Sehl, for the photo, and joining the “Wake Up” movement to mindfulness)