Have you ever driven home, pulled into the driveway and thought to yourself ‘how the hell did I get here?’ You can’t recall the turns you made, the lights you went through or the route you took. It seems the car wasn’t the only thing in automatic.
For some people this only happens after a hard days work. For others, this is how they live their lives, with their mind always somewhere else.
It’s a dangerous way to drive and a wasteful way to live your life.
If you’re a person who is prone to stress, anxiety or fear then the answer may be learning to be ‘present’.
Basically fear and anxiety are concepts of the mind. The mind creates fear and anxiety and puts us in a state of distress. The mind is like our muscles in that the more you work them the bigger they get. The more you stress the better you get at it. It’s called neural plasticity… and its science.
As an example, if you want bigger biceps you do lots of arm curls. If you want to be good at stressing yourself out, then use the part of your brain that causes stress. If you want to be more relaxed then strengthen the part of your brain that relaxes you.
By being present you avoid the stresses of the past and future. By bringing your consciousness back to ‘right now’ you access the frontal lobe, which is where you deal with emotions and produce ‘happy’ hormones like serotonin. The more you do this the stronger the frontal lobe gets, and the easier it is to avoid stress.
In women oestrogen helps form serotonin, and as we know oestrogen decreases with age. Stress management can assist by reducing stress hormones (cortisol) and therefore help fight against the lowered oestrogen levels.
So science tells us it works, but how do we do it?
There are many techniques, but all require one thing – practice. The good news is it doesn’t have to take much of your day and repetition will make you good at it.
Try some of these techniques and figure out what works best for you:
Do one thing at a time – if you are drinking coffee, just drink coffee. If you are walking, just walk. Don’t try to knock off tasks whilst doing other tasks.
Slow down – catch yourself when you are rushing for no reason. Enjoy where you are at and savour the moments. Even right now your shoulders are probably hunched up a bit…take a breath, relax and lower them.
Just sit in silence. Become aware of your thoughts. Focus on your breathing. Notice the world around you. Become comfortable with the silence and stillness. It’ll do you a world of good — and just takes 5 minutes (less time than it takes to brush your hair I bet).
Use all your senses – stop, listen and smell. Don’t just look. There’s lots of good stuff around if you take time to notice.
Importantly you wont be the only one who benefits. 15 minutes of truly being present with your kids or partner is worth 2 hours of just being in the room with your mind elsewhere. If you’re a boss then your staff will appreciate the attention too.
It’s your life – as far as I know you only get one… so it doesn’t make sense to miss the good bits.
For more information please contact Nathan on firstname.lastname@example.org or visit our site Nathan Burke Consulting
Resilience Workshops for high stress positions, salespeople and anyone who takes their work home with them are available.
Nathan is Head Coach of the Western Bulldogs AFLW team with over 30 years experience in the world of elite sport.