Well hello, Sunshine! Can we talk about mindfulness, and three simple steps women can take to get to that place?
If you are reading this it means you’ve either made it to the end of your work-week, or you’re concerned about personal self-care. Kudos to you! Others of you may still be in midst of the work grind, and that’s ok too. Hopefully, you’ve had some version of productivity in whatever you’ve been doing; and you’re still able to learn and take advantage of opportunities that lead to better personal care. Whatever productivity looks like for you…it counts. Remember, progress OVER perfection.
Staying focused on mindfulness, this blog is about the mindfulness of staying focused on yourself and your mental health.
3 Steps to Mindfulness
There are three steps to consider to help us stay in the mindset of being mindful. These steps are crucial to our overall well-being as women, who take on the weight of the world in trying to be everything to all people.
Step 1: Inhale & Exhale
The mindfulness process first begins by just inhaling and exhaling for 1-2 minutes at least once per day. Relax and try to forget about everything. Think about absolutely nothing, if you can. Don’t feel guilty about it. Take this moment for yourself and regroup.
Dr. Caroline Leaf, a communication pathologist and cognitive neuroscientist, explains that the mind can keep going and thinking, but the brain needs to rest. Constant thinking is a contributor to the stress we often feel. Deliberate breathing is almost like a switch that helps to reset the brain. This process calms the mind, aids in ridding foggy brain, and helps us think more clearly; ultimately allowing us to handle the affairs of life a bit better with a clearer head.
Step 2: Stretch/Exercise
Movement is an essential part of the body. Because the body can be compared to a machine; we have to think…if we leave machines out in the elements, neglecting their services and regular maintenance, they will eventually stop functioning in line with their intended purposes. The same concept is true for the natural body. We have to make sure that we keep the body moving.
Don’t feel, however, that you have to be at the same physical level as someone else to make significant strides in exercise. It’s whatever is best for you, your physical health and ability. You may also want to consult your physician or a nutritionist if you have concerns. The point is to either keep it moving or get to moving. If you are unable to exercise, at least try to stretch to maintain flexibility in your muscles and joints.
Keep in mind that along with focusing on physical health, women’s health is equally important. Part of the symptoms I was experiencing in May of 2019 were associated with women’s health. Not only was I beginning to experience what I believed to be pre- or perimenopausal symptoms, but I had also suffered a miscarriage (my 3rd) in March of that same year. So, not only was I experiencing physical anguish at this time, but my mental well-being was delicate. What I learned during this sensitive time, through my own research, was there were about 32 symptoms related to menopause; of which, I had about 29.
Typically, as it relates to menopause, all we hear about are hot flashes and the menstrual cycle becoming irregular and eventually stopping; but there are many more. Note also, it’s during this time of irregularity in the period that some women become pregnant, as I did. Though its harder to become pregnant, it is still possible as long as you are still having a period; AND, as long as you are still sexually active.
Other symptoms of the menopausal process include: trouble sleeping, night sweats, moodiness, forgetfulness, difficulty during sex, changes in skin and hair, and pain throughout the body. I honestly thought I was just falling apart. My self-confidence about myself as a persona was unstable. Trust me…don’t make any life-changing decisions during this time. Find out first if you may be experiencing menopause, and wait for the symptoms to subside on their own or with medication prescribed by a doctor. But be prepared. It is a process.
In May of 2019, I was in my worst physical shape. I didn’t have any diagnoses of any kind; but I didn’t feel well most days, and my physical mobility was shot. I was in a directorship position at my job, usually going from one meeting to the next or writing reports or grants. Long story short, I spent most of my time (though productive) sitting. Eventually all that sitting, wearing heels everyday, and not intentionally exercising caught up with me. I eventually found myself walking with a slight limp, having problems resting because of my back and leg pain, and I even had problems comfortably driving. This was too much too soon. I was only 45 years old, so something had to give.
At the end of that month, when I stopped working to give attention to family concerns, I made a commitment to myself to focus on my complete self–mentally, emotionally, physically, and spiritually. I went to my physician and had blood work done to find if I had any underlying issues. I expressed my concern for my weight at the time and my physical mobility; AND I also expressed my concern for my mental health. My doctor was very attentive to my concerns and put in referrals for me to see both a physical therapist and a nutritionist.
Physical Therapy, Diet and Exercise
After about a month with a physical therapist, I had gained a significant amount of my mobility back and could commit to a regular workout routine as simple as walking; which prior to physical therapy, had been quite difficult to do. I’m glad to report that I am now down 32lbs, and feel better than I have felt in years. I contribute regular physical exercise, along with committing to a semi-vegetarian diet, to my success.
For my mental and emotional health, aside from my daily prayer and devotion, I checked in with our family therapist weekly, initially. As I was able to process through my life changes and the changes for my family, sessions decreased to bi-monthly, monthly, and now as needed. Hopefully my truth and transparency can prevent someone from reaching that point of desperation; or, encourage others that it’s not too late to get it moving and begin taking care of yourself and your health. It’s not about how you start; it’s about when you start.
Step 3: Declutter
The third place of mindfulness is decluttering. Declutter your mind, body, and spirit. Again, we as women carry so much of the weight of burden and stress; not only our own, but of others. We have to find effective ways to declutter the thoughts constantly running through our minds. The weight in our minds affects the weight (pressure) we feel on our bodies. This is aside or in addition to any extra physical weight we may also be carrying. These together consume our entire being and cause difficulty in our day-to-day functioning and interacting.
Let’s just face it, sometimes as women we just take on too much. We call it multitasking; but if the truth be told, the tendency to “multitask” causes us more harm than good. Plus, though we think we’re being efficient, we’re only running partially well because our individual tasks are only getting parts of our effectiveness.
Another component of decluttering is the need to declutter our physical spaces. The more clutter we have around us, whether it be in our homes, cars, or offices; it cuts down on our functioning, productivity, happiness, and joy. This fact became apparent to me once when I was having some painting done in my home. Furniture was out of place, with drop clothes draped about, and there was dust everywhere. I noticed myself being very irritable and impatient with my family. My interior designer picked up on this and told me to put all the furniture back in its proper place. I questioned her reasoning; especially since the painter was nowhere near done. She explained that it was the disorder that was causing my stress and irritability. Sure enough, I put the furniture back in its place (though still covered with drop clothes) and noticed fairly quickly that my mood regulated. So know…clutter in our physical spaces causes stress. If there are areas around you that are creating this effect in your life, clean it up. You’ll feel better.
Don’t Be Ashamed to Ask for Help
So far we’ve discussed the three major components of mindfulness, but I’m adding a bonus; because it will be difficult to begin your self-care mindfulness journey if you are afraid to at times be vulnerable. Know that it is okay to seek out and ask for help; especially if you are not in the habit of doing any of these: regulated breathing exercises, physical exercise or movement, or decluttering.
With no judgement, if being able to breathe means that you need a little time away from your children, something else, or someone else…don’t be ashamed to say it.
James 1:19-20 says,
19 My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, 20 because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires.
There is nothing that we can do when we are angry or irritable that will produce anything good. If you are experiencing frustration or being overwhelmed…let someone know, so you can have some time away. Remember, it’s not forever. You just need some time. You’ve earned it and deserve it.
Having an opportunity to regroup allows us to be better versions of ourselves for others AND OURSELVES. If you’re someone like me, people around you are constantly asking or needing something. As women, we are natural nurturers. We make ourselves available to nurture and give to people all the time. But remember, we have to have something to give, so take the time you need.
In terms of exercise, don’t be ashamed if you and exercise right now are not friends. Let someone know that you want to get moving. Maybe you’ll seek a personal trainer. You may seek out a friend who already has a regular workout routine to get some tips and motivation from them. Or, maybe it will be someone in the same place as you are, who needs to get moving too. Together the two of you can push each other, and hold each other accountable. Whichever it is, just start moving. It only takes 10-15 minutes per day.
I’m a military veteran who was used to daily physical exercise; yet, I found myself in a slump; lacking discipline and motivation. I started moving again by simply walking to the corner mailbox everyday. That progressed to around the block. Now, I do 3 miles per day at a minimum. That’s just me. Ultimately, it’s about getting to a better version of yourself. Whatever that means. Each of us has to take accountability of being mindful of ourselves, unashamedly.
In the category of decluttering, don’t be ashamed to talk about that either. If somehow you’ve become overwhelmed and the clutter around you has gotten out of hand, ask for help. It’s better to ask than to continue to let things pile up and get even further out of hand. Wherever you might be, just take it one step at time, one day at a time, one space at a time.
As women, we have to be more mindful of not shaming other women for where they may be in life or where they’ve found themselves. There are different paths that lead to our clutter; but know for certain, we all have some. Some clutter may be due to busyness and not finding time for a regular cleaning routine. Others may be surrounded by situational clutter, like a child returning home from college or some things you’ve acquired. Still others may be compounded with generational clutter. Meaning that clutter is a habit that you’ve inherited, so you’ve never seen or practiced good decluttering habits. Whatever the case, if help is needed let someone know. Decluttering (getting rid of some stuff) helps with our overall mental health. So figure out what you need to hold on to and what you can actually let go.
Mindfulness of self-care includes inhaling and exhaling, stretching and exercising, and decluttering (your mind, body, spirit, and spaces); but whatever you do…BE MINDFUL OF YOU. The better you are for yourself, the better you can be for others.
More Like This
I hope that you found these tips on mindfulness helpful. If you did, give this page a LIKE and tell me about your experience. What area do you need to concentrate on to allow you to be more mindful of your own self-care?
Drop me a COMMENT and let me know if you’ll be making any of these a regular part of your personal mindfulness routine. Or, maybe you have a friend who could really benefit from these tips. Feel free to SHARE.
Also, if you want more helpful tips like these, follow my page here or on Face Book, Instagram, YouTube, or Pinterest at Dawn of a New Day 365. I’ll see you on the horizon. ~Dawn~