Work, tasks, errands and chores accumulate so much so it feels like you need to work 25 hours, seven days a week just to keep up. Yet another email marked as urgent arrives in your inbox. There is no end to the onslaught of modern life.
I wonder if our current fascination with zombie movies has to do with the endless amount of meaningless information that we have to sort through just to get through the average workday. In the midst of our own personal crisis of the walking dead, it is sometimes easier to take care of other people than it is to take care of ourselves. When one of our closest friends or family members shares openly that they are suffering, we jump into rescue mode so swiftly that it is easy to forget that we need to save ourselves, too.
I am certainly guilty of trying to please others, molding myself according to their wishes, and placing my own emotional balance at risk, especially when it is the request of someone very close to me. Through my yoga practice, I've learned some skills that help me take care of myself even when demands from the outside world apply intense pressure. How can you be a good zombie killer if you're not calm, centered and relaxed yourself? With these nine easy rituals of self-care that you can integrate throughout the day, you will keep the zombies at bay and have time for yourself and the things you value most.
Watch your breath throughout the day for signals about your stress level. If you notice yourself holding your breath, breathing erratically or sighing often, then consciously take 10 deep breaths, counting backwards with each inhalation and exhalation. Label each breath to keep your mind focused on a single point of attention. Say to yourself, "Ten in, 10 out. Nine in, nine out." If possible, lie down and close your eyes, or if no quiet space exists for you to retreat into, then simply find a quiet space inside your own mind.
2. Practice Gratitude
Pause at regular integrals throughout the day and consciously find something that you are truly grateful for. Do not act or pretend. In every stressful situation search for one thing that you can say an honest thanks about. In order for this to work, it has to be a real and grounded thing that you can connect with. If it is too much fantasy then you will know that you are fooling yourself. Only the real attitude of gratitude has the power to change your emotional state. If there is nothing in your current situation that you can be grateful for think of anything in your life at any moment that you were grateful for. No matter how small that may seem, consciously thinking of that experience in a positive manner will help bring your emotional state into balance.
3. Change Your Viewpoint
If you're stuck in the middle of intense emotions, you won't see clearly and you will be reacting from past patterns. Act don't react. Consciously choose your actions from a place of clarity, rather than just reacting to pain or running toward pleasure. As soon as you notice yourself losing your emotional center, excuse yourself and change your view, literally. Go to the bathroom, splash cold water on your face and recast the situation as though you are viewing it from 10,0000 feet, so you get some emotional distance and can remain objective.
So much tension and wasted energy is spent repressing or denying how we feel, both emotionally and in our bodies. Instead of pretending to be something that you are not, feel honestly what you are feeling and allow the simple truth of your emotions to set you free. Don't divorce yourself from your emotional body or be too intellectual. Don't let your feelings drown you either. Acknowledge what you feel when you feel it, and use that clarity as the basis for your decisions and interactions with others. Every emotion surfaces to teach you something or tell you something. Your job is to be clear enough to recognize the emotion for the messenger that it is. Communicate your emotions to others when appropriate, but remember to do so in a balanced way that respects the person with whom you are sharing.
5. Use Your Senses
Pleasant thoughts through the organs of your five senses orient your field of awareness toward the present moment, through what you see, what you touch, what you smell and taste. Direct your awareness to what you like about your current experience. Get fresh air and see the sunlight as much as possible. Notice and appreciate your surroundings.
6. Generate Energy
You have to generate energy if you want to have it. Especially if you have a job that requires you to stay seated for long hours, remember to take every chance you get to walk, stretch and move around. Little bursts of physical movement help the body feel better and the mind focus more intently. You don't have to run a marathon to be energized, sometimes all it takes is a walk around the block or to go up and down a few flights of stairs. If you don't have time to get outside of your office, stand up in front of your desk for a few minutes every hour and either stretch or continue what you're doing while standing. Even the added physical effort of standing for a few minutes helps.
Take the last moments of your day to reflect on the good things about your day, seeing the negative experiences as learning and evaluate rom the perspective of what you can learn, not how you failed. Take stock of the positive and negative emotions you experienced throughout the day. Validate yourself for progress made towards your emotional, physical or career goals.
Let yourself daydream. Don't fill every moment of your day with Twitter, Facebook and YouTube. Just let yourself relax and your mind wander. Be careful not to let your mind harp on the negative in these little reveries. Close your eyes and let the mind free associate, even if there are no words that accompany this state. This is like a mini holiday in the middle of the day. Small refreshing daydreaming breaks help your mind integrate lessons and recuperate. You are also practicing being receptive, which is crucial to moments of wisdom and inspiration.
While it can be great to goals and visualize the future don't let yourself get too caught up in how things "should" be. Be prepared to let go of your attachments to any particular outcome so that you can be open to something bigger than you have ever imagined. Learn that to the yield does not mean that you lose and be willing to compromise. Let life lead you down unexpected turns and you will discover magic in the most ordinary places.