On the wild ride that is 2020, we could all use some sanity-saving mindfulness tips. Whether it’s wanting to pull your hair out during chaotic homeschooling sessions, the stress of taking care of a loved one who’s ill, or managing the uncertainty and overwhelm of losing your job—everyone is working through an issue (or twenty) right about now. While the world we’re living in isn’t one anyone imagined or hoped for, it’s what we’ve got—and learning to navigate it while remaining in-control and calm will serve us well! So, today, we wanted to offer up our top three mindfulness tips for managing the stress of the world, rather than letting the stress of the world manage you. We’re talking all about the power of responding rather than reacting below. Read on to tap into that inner ohmmm.
What’s the difference between responding and reacting?
Before we dive into our mindfulness tips, let’s talk a bit about the difference between responding and reacting. While they may sound interchangeable at first, when we really dive into the meat of what they really mean, they’re far from the same.
- To react is to take an immediate, knee-jerk action in response to something that upsets us, without considering the best course of action first.
- To respond is to take a mindful, measured action in response to something that upsets us, after having paused to consider the best, most beneficial course of action.
The difference, then, is in the amount of thought and control that goes into each. When you’re constantly reacting to the stress of the world, it’s controlling you. When you thoughtfully respond to the stress of the world, you’re controlling it.
1. Embrace the power of the (awkward) pause.
We’ve often been taught: the faster, the better. The quicker we can respond to that email and tick that nagging task off of our to-do list, the better we are at our jobs. The faster we can get dinner out on the table, scarfed down, and cleaned up, the more efficient of a parent we are. The problem is, this trains us to be humans who immediately react, rather than thoughtfully respond.
Oftentimes, when we react without taking time to pause and consider the best course of action, we react in a way that only serves to create more problems. Think: you break a glass full of juice in the kitchen. You immediately allow that simple action to send you into a tailspin. Your kid is now upset that you’re upset, so she starts crying. You convince yourself it’s bound to be a terrible day (look at what’s happening all before 8am, after all!), and your mood reflects this throughout the day. Eight hours later, you look back on your day and realize it was nothing but stress and negativity—all because a glass of juice broke.
We can retrain our brain, however, to embrace the thing we were so often taught to avoid: the awkward pause, the drawn-out silence, the moment that tells others we don’t, actually, know what to do immediately. It’s in these pauses that we can reassess the situation and make a choice that’s far more beneficial to our overall well-being. (OK—no one is hurt, the glass of juice breaking isn’t that big of a deal. I’m going to take a deep breath, take three minutes to clean it up, and get on with my day in a joyful manner.) The next time something happens that upsets you—a rude coworker, a broken garage door, your two-year-old’s temper tantrum, a red light that’s keeping us from getting to our destination on time—remember this mantra: slow is smooth, and smooth is fast. Embrace the awkward pause; go over your options for how you can react; take time to put the stressor into perspective; and choose the most beneficial course of action, rather than the one that comes to you immediately.
2. Take a break from social media.
When it comes to mindfulness tips, this one takes the calm-amongst-the-chaos cake. Detoxing from social media can be tough in the world of social distancing where our only human-to-human interactions tend to take place via a screen (we need those double-taps to stay sane!)—but deleting those apps and taking a purposeful break from social media is one of the best ways we can recenter ourselves, declutter our minds, and get back to a place where we’re equipped to respond, rather than immediately react, to stressors in our lives.
Social media algorithms are designed to serve us the worst of the “other side” and the best of “our side”. This results in a world where you’re constantly on edge and in the always-unhealthy “comparison mode”—whether that’s due to being fired up about political issues or being convinced everyone is leading their best lives while you homeschool three unruly children in the same taco-meat-stained t-shirt you’ve been wearing for two days straight. This leads to that “ticking time bomb” feeling where the smallest stressor can send you over the edge on a moment’s notice. By taking a break from social media—and the unhealthy mental state it often leaves us in—our bodies and minds can recalibrate a bit, which sets the stage for us to begin taking more mindful, measured responses to stressors that arise.
Still don’t believe a social media detox is important? Here are some stats that might change your mind:
- Research has shown the more time you spend on social media platforms, the more likely you are to become depressed.
- Computer World tells us social media is distinctly designed to be highly addictive (specifically: “as habit-forming as crack cocaine”)
- Research also suggests a strong link between social media use and anxiety, particularly for already-anxious people.
3. Embrace the analog life as you cut back on screen time.
Detoxing from social media doesn’t have to mean you cut off all interaction with friends and family. Quite the opposite—shift from hourly “likes” and empty comments to fewer, more meaningful interactions over the week. During the pandemic when we can’t see each other, this means picking up the phone (reduce screen time by scheduling a good ol’ fashioned weekly phone date with a close friend or family member, instead of that weekly Zoom call). Even better? Take that scheduled call while out on a walk. Research shows walking can reduce symptoms of mild depression by 47%.
Another option for making meaningful connections? Bust out that stationery and write a few letters to people you love, expressing your gratitude for their impact on your life. A Harvard Study suggests expressing gratitude can improve your mood and lead to increased happiness—so, skip the incessant scrolling and, instead let the handwritten thank-you notes flow. You can even earn double karma points by purchasing pens and cards from your favorite local stationery shop, helping keep small businesses afloat during a tough year. A few small stationery hops we love? The Social Type, Calliope Paperie, Spaghetti & Meatballs, BiBA Letterpress, and Alligator Soup.
4. Give yourself the centering moments you need, without apology or guilt.
One of the things that keeps us on-edge and in a place of reacting immediately, rather than responding thoughtfully, is the notion that we have to do it all—without complaint and perfectly. Particularly for women, there’s an idea that, the more selfless we are, the better we are at being a mom, wife, friend, sister, or daughter. The problem is, when our own needs aren’t meant, the anger, frustration, and neglect we feel then spills out into other aspects of our lives. (It’s the age-old cliché of putting your oxygen mask on first.)
In a world where we’re pulled in a million different directions at once and expected to be all things to all people, it is so important to learn to listen to what our body is telling us we need and communicate those needs clearly with the people around us, rather than letting our stress and frustration build up and boil over while our friends and family are none the wiser. Whether it’s clearly telling your partner you need five minutes of silence alone while they take care of the little ones, or shifting the family schedule so you can make it to yoga in the park on Sunday—take stock of the things that bring you joy and keep you sane, and learn to ask others for the help you need to make those things happen for you.
A mindfulness tip to get started? Take thirty minutes one day to sit down and think about the things that bring you a sense of calm: is it a daily walk, journaling every morning, enjoying your coffee completely alone, reading a book at night in silence, practicing yoga on the patio? Write down everything that comes to mind. Then, sit down with your partner or anyone else you can lean on, and come up with a plan for ensuring you get at least five of those “moments” each week.
Ready for more mindfulness tips? Browse the rest of the CF Nutrition blog for helpful health, wellness, and lifestyle tips. And don’t forget to bring your A-game to your everyday routine by hydrating with the clean, clinical replenishment of CF(Rehyrdate)® and nourishing with the powerful plant-based protein in CF(protein)®, our fan-favorite immunonutrition drink.