As a grad student, life can get stressful. In my effort to better take care of myself, I started meditating in the morning and incorporating mindfulness as a weekly practice. Unfortunately, I didn’t start any of this as a preventative measure. I only started incorporating mindfulness and meditation when I got incredibly overwhelmed. It was a last-ditch effort to salvage my sanity.
I have a feeling that I’m not alone in this. Too often, we play a game of stress Russian Roulette, where we test our stress limits without any precautionary measures. We prioritize literally everything else over our mental health, thinking that just pushing through, overlooking our stress load, will help us persevere. Whether we work multiple jobs, take care of others, or are socially overcommitted, it seems instinctual to put ourselves last.
Well, I’m here to tell you… don’t be like me. Don’t be like this. Get it together. There’s no prize for burnout. There’s no medal for exhaustion. Nobody wins when your cup is empty and dusty.
There are few things more important than taking care of your mental and physical health. Although society markets wellness as a luxury, wellness is and should be for all of us and can work on any scale or budget.
My challenge to you is to try.
There are several ways to enact self-care, and many outlets work. For me, mindfulness really saves the day in small, unassuming ways that improve my life. I was surprised by how incorporating mindfulness into my daily life really works. Practicing self-care doesn’t have to be a momentous or expensive occasion (although there’s nothing wrong with treating yourself sometimes). Most times it’s a small change to your mindset and schedule that anyone can integrate into their life. Below are some small ways that I’ve improved my life through mindfulness:
1. Write down what you want out of life
This tip was inspired by my fiance, who writes down everything. If you’re like me, then you want to gain a lot out of life. You hope to achieve your academic, career goals, build and maintain relationships, while simultaneously being a contributing citizen of the world. We may not have the same wants in life, but achieving personal goals while dealing with the daily pressures of life can seem overwhelming.
I learned that verbalizing and writing what I want out of life, helps me achieve it. Writing down what I want in life, helps me live in better alignment with my values. I also gain the added benefit of better communicating my goals to others. I’m always surprised by how many people want to help me succeed. In doing this small task, I’m able to set intentions for myself, my actions, and take better care of myself. This all matters because no one ever did anything great alone and you can’t manifest what you don’t claim.
2. Take mindful moments
This is the most critical use of mindfulness for me. Mindful moments are short times throughout the day to remind me of my intentions for the day, week, month, or year. A mindful moment can be remembering your written intentions, focusing on your breath, or gaining the courage to say “no” to something will not serve you. Taking a few seconds to focus on my breath and intentions help me reset and re-center when life gets a little too crazy.
3. Try guided meditation
Now, bear with me here. A lot of people are uninterested in or intimidated by the idea of meditating, but there are some great benefits and it’s easy to start. Meditation helps improve attention, as well as stress, anxiety, and depression symptoms. Research also shows that meditating at least 20 minutes a day can help lower your blood pressure over time. See, you can get mental and physical health benefits.
4. Make Mundane Activities Meditative
Certain activities are a great way to incorporate mindfulness, especially guided meditations aren’t your thing. Some activities might be lifting, folding clothes, cleaning, etc. The goal is to engage in repetitive actions that take your mind outside of itself. While doing these activities try focusing on your actions, noticing each movement in sections, focus on those thoughts, your breathing, and take in that moment. There is something soothing about taking advantage of daily activities like this.
5. Remember Mindful Eating
The type of food we consume affects our bodies but also how we consume food can too. An unconventional form of mindfulness is eating mindfully. Due to our brain-gut connection, how we eat and treat our gut can impact our daily life. Not only can eating fresh and healthy foods improve wellbeing, but also slowing down and making eating a mindful ritual.
Oftentimes eating food quickly and haphazardly leads to us filling less satisfied after we’ve eaten. So, think about making eating a ritual. Try to spend your first few minutes eating without any distractions. Maybe try not to eat while watching TV (I’m guilty of doing this all the time. I never said I was perfect). Instead, savor the moment of enjoying your meal.
When it comes to taking care of yourself, no action is too small. You just have to start. Happy healing!