By Dr. Marta Adelsman
Life Coach in Communication and Consciousness
(December 14, 2012)
I’m sitting here at my computer, attempting to write this column. Instead, through my mind runs an endless list of tasks to be completed before my sons arrive for Christmas.
As I reflect on stress at this time of year, I’m aware that a great deal of it results from the fact that our minds want to dwell so much in the future. We see the whole avalanche of to-do’s falling around us, tempting us to feel overwhelmed and anxious.
What would happen to your stress if you chose to stay present to every nano-second of the preparation experience?
By “stay present,” I mean focusing your thoughts only upon what occurs in this moment. While washing your hands, for example, instead of thinking about what you will do today or tomorrow, you pay attention to the feel of the soap and water on your skin. Or you inhale and enjoy the smell of fresh pine as you decorate your home.
I’m going to share with you some ways that I bring myself present. Practice these or change them to fit your own patterns and rhythm.
I play the “five senses game.” I pay attention to what I see, hear, smell, taste and touch right now. With each sense, one at a time, I take in my environment. Every time I find anxiety building, I bring my awareness back to one or more of my sensory experiences.
This practice calms me. It forces me to pay attention only to the part of the avalanche that I experience NOW. Instead of wondering how I will eat the whole elephant, I enjoy this one bite.
I focus on my breath. Under stress, many of us breathe shallowly. I take time each day to sit quietly, inhaling and exhaling slowly and deeply. When I do this for twenty minutes or more once or twice a day, my mind quiets down. I think more clearly and I plan better, so I actually accomplish more.
I deliberately slow down my movements. When hurry is prolonged, it produces stress. When I slow myself down, it’s easier to stay present to what I am doing. To me, this feels like moving in slow motion because I tend to move quickly much of the time. I no longer focus on getting-done-with-this-so-I-can-go-on-to-the-next-thing. I find that habit exhausting!
I encourage you to discern between the essentials and non-essentials of the holiday season. Make it a priority to preserve a peaceful feeling inside you. Breathe, pay attention to your sensory experience, and slow down.
I wish you all a stress-free holiday season filled with awareness and presence!