Ahead of reading this blog please ask yourself – what is the most successful self-care practice that helps you to create the best conditions for success?
At several moments today you probably walked from one place to another, down the hallway to get your breakfast, from one meeting to the next. How much did you notice during your walk? Can you recall what you saw, heard or even felt? Or did you rush from one part of the house to another to get ready for the day, and then in haste travel to work, and then race through the day from one back-to-back meeting to another only to rush home and start over again the next day?
Mindfulness, and more specifically Mindfulness in Movement, is a great self-care practice that helps us develop pro-active Resilience on the go and optimise our performance. We have become a society connected to our devices and often check our messages (text, WhatsApp, Snapchat, Facebook Messenger etc.) and emails when we move from one location to another, missing the opportunity to use this time to stop rushing and re-ground ourselves.
In the book, Burnout – The Secret to Solving the Stress Cycle, the Nagasaki sisters highlight that we are often stuck in a stress response. After experiencing stress (be it conscious or unconscious stress) we need to soothe the body and assure it that we are safe. Stress is a physical process and we cannot just tell ourselves that everything will be ok.
Beware a growth mindset is fantastic, but we can’t rely on it alone to stop the stress cycle
…And the stress has passed because internally our bodies are still firing on a potential need to fight, take flight or freeze, and therefore assume we are still experiencing stress! So, if the mind cannot talk down stress – what can?
Moving: Exercise is a no brainer, it keeps our hearts, lungs, muscles and minds fit. There is no question movement is good for you, but we don’t always have time for a daily run or to hit the gym. However, most of us can get better at looking for more opportunities to move in a typical day, and if we can be mindful in our movement at the same time then we increase the chances of reducing our stress even further.
Just standing-up from your chair and taking a deep breath is a great start. If you think about animals, when they get a shock, they literally shake it off. We would do well to draw from this example as humans, walking and/or moving mindfully helps complete the cycle of stress and creates the headspace to remind yourself you are safe. This in turn develops our capacity to notice and stop negative mental cycles that can creep into the grey matter on a typical day, tainting our experiences and depleting our energy even further.
How to Walk Mindfully?
Developing any Mindfulness in Movement practice allows us to pro-actively ‘prep’ for situations and if we start with walking mindfully, we can do this as we walk from one meeting to another, to give ourselves a boost. Mark Williams in his book Finding Peace in a Frantic World,suggests ‘walking mindfully is simply to pay attention of the actual sensation of walking, notice when the mind goes elsewhere and just come back to the motion of walking’.
It may be that to practice walking mindfully you need to find a quiet space to master the practice. You could be outdoors or inside if you prefer. Walking meditations can be a formal practice, as are many meditations, guiding the breath towards a particular rhythm, pattern or focus, or it can be more relaxed and informal.
To introduce this into a typical day, I would encourage you to invite yourself to step into the ‘being mode’ when walking rather than the ‘doing mode’ (see Blog Technically competent Leaders will fail if they don’t develop soft as well as hard skills https://theresilienceformula.co.uk/uncategorized/technically-competent-leaders-can-fail-if-they-do-not-take-the-time-to-develop-the-soft-as-well-as-the-hard-skills/).
Bringing awareness to how you are moving from A – B can help gather your awareness back to yourself, otherwise your focus can all too often still be back in the meeting you just left. Developing our capacity to ground ourselves into the here and now, we often feel less distracted. It helps us arrive at our next destination with poise, attention and flow, having grabbed the opportunity to recharge our energy rather than allowing our minds to be scattered by an unfinished stress cycle.
One concern clients often cite during Resilience Coaching, is that they do not feel mentally present at home with their partners and or families. Introducing mindful walking as an everyday mindful practice can really help, not just with our performance at work, but raise the quality of time at home. It also helps to guide us away from auto pilot reactions. Paying attention can help us feel safe, soothe a stress cycle out and with the added benefit of the movement burn-off any build-up of stress hormones in our bodies, it is a practice that will be supporting out health even further.
A step-by-step guide to walking mindfully can be read here:
A Daily Mindful Walking Practice https://www.mindful.org/daily-mindful-walking-practice/
Cultivating mental Resilience empowers us to mindfully prep for an up-and-coming meeting. This can help to introduce mental ‘head space’ before we are sucked into a reaction, building our capacity to have control over ourselves. We can support our mental Resilience by taking care of the physical influence our bodily functions can have on us, and significantly reduce our stress.
Allowing ourselves some breathing space during movement from one location to another is a great step we can take towards improving self-care and personal Resilience, and will help us to identify what the small, simple changes we need to make life better for ourselves.
I am a trained Tai Chi Qi Gong Teacher and part-way through my yoga teacher training. I practice a short-seated meditation on waking, a short movement routine before the family get up, and I walk mindfully in between meetings every day. I also ensure I get out in nature for a long walk, at least once a week. I notice my mental fitness is not what it normally is on the weeks I do not get out for a longer Sunday morning walk in nature. Knowing the personal benefits keeps me focused on ensuring I make the time for this important activity.
As the daughter of someone who struggled with significant mental health issues that sadly ended in suicide after years of struggle, I know there is no room for complacency around my mental and physical health.
I absolutely love my job as a Resilience Coach and consider myself incredibly lucky to have the mental toughness to withstand life events that have come my way. As a Coach, we are often helping someone achieve what they thought they could not. In-order, to do that we need to be present and focused, not distracted and complacent. A calm mind is hugely supported by mindful movement and on Suicide Prevention DayI hope this blog reminds you of the importance of movement, mindfulness and physical wellbeing to underpin your mental health. Thank you for taking the time to read today’s blog.
And Axa PPP’s blog on the benefits of walking https://www.axappphealthcare.co.uk/health-information/exercise-and-fitness/health-benefits-of-walking/