7 Easy Mindfulness Practices to Help You Kick Stress to the Kerb!
This time of year can be pretty stressful, don’t you think?
We’re trying hard to stick to our New Year’s Resolutions, whilst also trying to juggle multiple projects, chase clients and do everything else it takes to run a successful freelance business.
That’s not to mention the fact that Christmas and New Year are long behind us now, those freezing days and dark nights aren’t going anywhere in a hurry and we’re still paying off the credit card bills from the festive period.
It ain’t easy!
But that doesn’t mean that we have to let all that stress and madness slash our productivity levels, stamp out our creativity and affect our sleep.
We can feel better, stronger and take our freelancing game to a whole new level by practicing mindfulness. So, let me explain what mindfulness is, how it can make a difference to your life, and then show you several easy ways you can put it into practice.
What is mindfulness?
Let’s start by taking a look at what mindfulness actually is.
Put in the simplest terms possible, mindfulness is being present in the moment.
It’s being aware of what’s happening around you, where you physically are, and what’s happening in your head.
It’s ‘tuning in’ to the world around you, instead of getting dragged into that familiar tide of random thoughts, judgements and worries. It’s your chance to take a step back, away from any sense of overwhelm or anxiety, to switch off from work and other obligations and to give your brain a well-deserved break.
But it’s not a new hippy pastime, technique or strange habit. Nor is it yet another thing to add to your ‘to do’ list. And you definitely don’t have to sit on a cushion with your legs crossed, chanting ‘Om…’ (although fair play to you if you do)
Mindfulness is something that humans were practicing long before Facebook was even a twinkle in Mark Zuckerberg’s eye and it’s something you can do too.
What are the benefits of mindfulness?
One of the primary benefits of mindfulness is its ability to help ease chronic stress and overwhelm. As you’ve undoubtedly noticed, these are two of the biggest issues that you’ll face as a freelancer.
One study carried out by the University of California discovered that just 8 weeks of a mindfulness meditation approach called MBSR (mindfulness-based stress reduction) reduced stress and anxiety and increased a sense of control for participants.
Secondly, practising mindfulness will also unlock that freelancing genius that you’ve always known exists inside of you. As you offload the stress and clear mental space, you’ll rediscover your creativity, boost your brain power and also get much more focused on what you really want in your life.
You’ll gain more clarity when it comes to:
- which clients you want to work with
- which projects you want to take on
- you’ll understand better how to take your business to the next level
- you’ll find it easier to get out there and achieve greatness
And lastly, slowing down and practising mindfulness will help you feel much calmer and in control of your life, which is especially valuable when things get tough.
When I’ve spent just a few moments sitting quietly or tuning in to what’s around me, it feels like a huge weight has been lifted off my shoulders and I can move forward again with my head held high.
How you can practice mindfulness
Here are some of my favourite ways to practice mindfulness.
1) Use a mindfulness app
If you’re brand new to mindfulness, I’d highly recommend that you download one of the many apps on the market and start using it every day.
Not only will they help you make more sense of what mindfulness is really all about, they’ll also walk you through many mindfulness practices that can help you feel less anxious and much more focused.
2) Practice mindful breathing
Before I start my day, I like to hit the ‘reset button’ and take a few moments to practice mindful breathing.
It’s something that helps me to really focus on the project that I’ll be tackling that day, to give it 100% effort and achieve the best that I can.
You should also give it a go. At various points throughout the day, just pause whatever you’re doing and allow your attention to settle on your breath. Notice how your chest gently rises and falls as your breath flows in and out, without trying to change it or judge it. Just let it be.
Notice that you can do this absolutely anywhere – you don’t have to sit down or close your eyes or anything like that. Yes, it can even be done in the checkout queue in Asda.
3) Notice your body
You can also practice mindfulness by tuning in to your physical body. This will allow you to become more present in the moment, to let go of any tension you might be holding on to, and, if you practice it right before bed, you’ll find yourself sleeping like a baby.
Again, slow down and stay still for a moment. Allow your attention to focus on your breath. Then, start an imaginary journey across your body, starting with one hand and travelling across your fingers, up your arm, to your shoulder, to your torso, your head, your legs and to your feet.
Feel into them. See how each part of your body feels. Is there any tension there? A buzzing or tingling sensation? Do you feel hot, cold or comfortable?
Feel the contact between your body and the place you’re sitting or lying down on. Notice the textures of your clothes on your skin.
Then open your eyes and continue on with your day.
4) Go outside for a walk
A dose of fresh air, with a touch of exercise, is almost guaranteed to lift your mood and help you beat stress, especially if you apply a mindfulness approach as you walk.
As you move, notice everything around you. Use all of your senses to notice the sights, sounds, smells, feel and even taste of the world. Slow down.
Feel your feet inside your shoes as you walk. Feel the slight scratchiness of that warm scarf around your neck. Appreciate the birds…the clouds…the kid messing around in the park with his kite…
Do this and you’ll return to your desk feeling lighter, refreshed, more focused and much less stressed.
5) Tidy up
If you want to become more mindful, you’ll also need to think about the space in which you live.
Do a Marie Kondo and start clearing away the junk and clutter that simply take up space without bringing joy to your life. Focus on making your office a place where you want to be. Then enjoy the mindful, uncluttered space you’ve just created.
6) Fully engage with your friends and family
Have you ever noticed how easy it can be to zone out when your friends and loved ones are talking to you?
This tends to happen if you’re extremely stressed, or you have too much on your plate, or you’re trying to juggle multiple projects at work. The trouble is, this affects your relationship with these people when you really need them the most.
So, make an effort to become more mindful and really listen.
Listen to every word they’re saying and engage with how they’re feeling. Look into their eyes. Make an effort to understand them, instead of ‘accidently’ scrolling Instagram or updating your Facebook status whilst they’re talking.
Do this, and you’ll strengthen your relationship with this person, build your support network, help relieve stress and help you both feel calm and loved. Wonderful!
7) Do nothing
Instead of rushing around from project to project, burning the candle at both ends and trying to keep on top of it all, find some quiet time to just ‘be’.
Switch off your phone. Walk away from your computer. Chill on the sofa watching Netflix with a big bag of popcorn. Lie in the bath for hours with an awesome book, until the water gets cold. Hang out with your partner or best friend.
And whilst you do so, don’t think about work. Be mindful. Enjoy the peace and quiet.
So, there we have it. Freelancing can be stressful and mindfulness rocks. Put the two together and you’ll feel much better.
Try out one of the apps, tune in to your breath and body, engage with the world around you and spend more time doing what makes you feel good so you can beat stress for good.