It’s no secret that the final months of the year are stressful. Our calendars are often filled with social events, our bank accounts take a serious hit from an abundance of gift-giving, our workload often increases as we try to wrap things up before the year’s end, and it can be tempting to lose patience with meddling relatives and loved ones. Rather than finishing up the year feeling stressed, tired, burnt out and irritated, here are 5 Tips to Cultivate Calm in the Midst of Chaos.
Earlier this week I had the pleasure of being interviewed by the lovely Jim Fazackerley from KWMR - West Marin Community Radio in California. Have a listen to our conversation on all things mindfulness, including how I got into teaching, my influencers, the benefits of the practice and one of my personal favourite topics, kindfulness.
Over the past few months, I've been chipping away at the creation of my first online meditation course, Connect to Calm. While the process has been a labour of love, I must admit that I have probably been pushing things a little hard to get to the end goal of officially launching my course. It's safe to say that I haven't been doing a great job of cultivating the mindfulness attitude of non-striving, which is all about not forcing things in order to achieve a certain outcome, state of being or goal.
Last week I found myself in a situation that triggered a really strong feeling of shame. Someone very close to me called me out on an unhealthy habit and as a result, I felt totally humiliated and like an absolute failure. Deep down I know that we all have different habits, addictions and patterns of behaviour that don't serve us, that we would like to hide away from, ignore and deny. I know that this is all part of being human and that it's perfectly okay to be imperfect. Yet, I also know that it can be incredibly painful to confront these demons, no matter how big or small they may be.
Last year, only just a few months after getting engaged, my relationship hit a serious rough patch. My partner and I were both running our own businesses, juggling social commitments, dealing with health concerns and keeping up with family obligations. We were so consumed by everything else that was going on in our lives that we stopped making time for what was most important; each other.
So, after much deliberation, we decided that enough was enough. It was time to stop operating on autopilot mode and instead, rediscover presence and connection in our relationship. Naturally, this resulted in a pact to turn off the TV for an entire month. Here’s what happened in the days and weeks that followed...
Throughout my time in Bali, I was constantly reminded of how fortunate I am to call Australia home. I felt immensely grateful for our clean drinking water, our safe roads, our abundance of quality produce, the value of our dollar and our quality of life.Upon returning home, I was amazed at how easy it was to slip back into the same old routine of taking this life for granted.
For ten years, my yoga practice was my escape. My mat was my magic carpet. And at 6am every day it would transport me to a far-off land away from all of my problems. But after every few months of consistent practice, a funny thing would happen. Out of the blue, I would be struck down by some mysterious, unexplainable affliction.
Over the past few months, I've been pretty stressed. As a meditation teacher, I know this must sound quite ironic, however, I'm willing to admit that I'm only human too.
Often when I’m stressed and anxious I gravitate towards self-destructive ways of taking care of myself, such as drinking too many glasses of Pinot Noir (busted!), indulging in one of my favourite comfort foods and binge watching mindless TV. I’ve come to realise that rather than leaving me feeling nourished and energised, these activities can actually be rather depleting.
So, here are my new favourite ways to calm the farm when I’m feeling stressed.
Did you know that mindfulness comes in all different shapes and sizes, not just the clichéd image of a monk sitting under a tree like this chanting “om”? My mindfulness practice comes in the form of meditation and yoga, however, your mindfulness practice could be completely something different. Perhaps it's the simple act of going for a surf or a swim, painting, taking photos, dancing, singing, playing catch with your dog; whatever activity brings you into the present moment.
A student recently told me that she felt like she was on a perpetual rollercoaster. That she felt like she was constantly going around and around in circles and could never keep up. The constant demands of everyday life were leaving her feeling completely exhausted. And I've got absolutely no doubt that many more of my students would say the same. In our society these days, we live in this constant state of “fight or flight”. In ancient times our bodies sympathetic nervous system worked to keep us safe from being attacked by sabre-toothed tigers, but these days it’s being triggered by things like work deadlines, conflict with our partners and friends, and the million notifications and emails we receive on our phones.