Phew. What a month. Am I the only one having experienced challenges where my confidence and personal boundaries were tested? Where my my self-care on all levels got super important and fatigue came to say hi on the regular? I know I’m not alone at this, we never are.
Us humans are a pro at do-ing. Constantly being ON, being active, achieving, ticking off boxes on our to-do lists, reaching targets, crushing deadlines, getting results. After a year of living in a pandemic, with many in and out of a lockdown or quarantine, our nervous system has had the chance to rewind. To slow down. To step back from our busy lives, professional and social, and retreat within our homes, families, and ourselves.
However, now that the line between working from home and living at work got a lot thinner, it’s especially important to set clear boundaries, take our time to disconnect and come from a place of rest and being completely ourselves, more than living in response to our external experiences and keep saying yes to everything and everyone but ourselves.
Exhaustion, burnout, fatigue, stress, anxiety are all consequences of how we react, how we handle our daily lives and how we take care of ourselves before tackling the day. As a Mindfulness teacher, I’m happy to share with you some tips that have helped me and my clients handle fatigue, stress, anxiety, burnout and come back to a place of rest, worthiness and deep inner peace. I bumped into these tips while listening to the world’s greatest leaders on wellbeing, health and personal development, especially the last week and month, when I also needed it the most.
Listen to your body right now: what is it telling you? How do you feel, and where do you feel it?
The first step is becoming aware of those signs of exhaustion and demotivation. You can do this by taking regular breaks, setting a timer every 2 hours to take a deep breath and check in with yourself.
If you’re feeling emotionally drained from work, try checking in with yourself and stop doing things for the sake of doing. Ask yourself: why are you ticking off to do lists? Does it come from a place of have-to, of fear, of exhaustion? Or does it come from a place of get-to, or excitement, of motivation?
My no 1 tip is: take care of yourself first. Fill your cup first, because you cannot pour from an empty cup. You have nothing left to give if your cup is empty.
So, where do you start? Get enough sleep, drink enough water, get some exercise (even if that is gentle stretching, going for a walk or doing some yoga), eat nutritious meals. Take care of yourself. Your body and mind are interconnected, science keeps proving us.
Giving Yourself Grace
What is very important is to practice acceptance and self compassion. You are doing your best. You are only human. You are worthy of happiness, of rest, you do not need to deserve it. We tend to have forgotten about that in our society. It is as if we have to achieve, get results, first, before we can enjoy life and rest. We feel bad if we do so, without any reason – while actually, who says we can’t?
Your worth is not attached to your productivity. If you catch yourself getting off trail and trying to prove yourself, overwork, for the sake of getting approval, or validation from other: be gentle with yourself, and come back. Take a deep breath and come back to yourself. Remind yourself you are worthy, no matter what.
Give yourself permission to rest and go against what society thinks humans are: robots.
Honor what you need. Do you need to tune off social media? Do it. Do you need more sleep? Prioritise it. Do you feel like you need to stretch your legs more? Go for a walk or run. Prioritise your needs.
Retreating within and finding a still space within is something that has become less and less common, but so important. Sometimes, we just want to tune out all the noise of the outside world and find that space within, that space of stillness, of silence.
Your intuition always tells you what is best for you, you just need to listen to it and tune into the right frequency. As with radios, we can be tuned into certain frequencies. We can change those. You wouldn’t listen to a rock radio channel 24/7, right? Sometimes, you want silence or a classical music radio channel. So why don’t we do the same for our minds?
Not only our body needs attention, our minds needs it to: self-compassion, positive self-talk and meditating, retreating within is of utmost importance.
If you/re new to meditation, don’t worry. Even a few deep breaths and a timer for 2 min can get you in the right space and leave you feel refreshed and recharged. The more you do it, the more you will notice the benefits (outside your meditation practise itself) and the more often you will practice, because you will love going back to that place within.
Remember, meditation is a practice. It should not be perfect and it is not perfect. It is about practising taking a moment for yourself to sit down, repeat a mantra, count your breaths or visualise something that relaxes you. There are so many different forms and ways of meditation, I really encourage you to experiment and find what works for you.
Routines & Rituals
Routines serve as the building foundation of your wellbeing and it consists out of the things that make you feel good and that help you be the best, most inspired version of yourself. As I mentioned before, starting with the basic rules of health: getting enough sleep, nourishing meals, hydration, and movement automatically put your body in its best position.
Two routines that have helped me so much lately to come from a place of rest are my morning & evening routine. When I get up, the first I do is meditate. I tune in with myself before I tune in with the world. It allows me to come from my place, my true self, rather than being thrown around like a bottle on a stormy sea, moving from the one thing that calls our attention to the other. It’s about reacting from the inside rather than reacting from the outside.
What will you add to your routines or rituals?
Small habits throughout the day that have the deepest impact: checking in with yourself through deep breathing, sipping some water for hydrating, going for a walk, stretching and taking time for your tea/coffee/lunch/dinner. Do them mindfully, with your fullest attention, instead of rushing through it.
We tend to live with this one belief: whatever comes next, is more important than what is happening right now. Whatever happens next, is more urgent than what is happening right now. If we keep living like this, we always miss out on this very moment. And this very moment is the only moment when life happens.
No matter which season we are in, not only our bodies need some nourishment – our souls & minds need it too. Especially now, a year into this pandemic, we all deserve a serious pat on the back for making it so far. However, often life gets in the way – we all have our daily work & tasks to complete. Often, this constant running towards do-ing, and not giving our bodies our minds the change to be, leaves us tired, drained, burn out. Luckily, there’s ways to avoid this. Here are 6 mindful ways to take care during winter season.
1. Slow Down – Practice Mindfulness Meditations
Mindfulness invites us to slow down and live in this present moment. It allows us to snap out of the auto-pilot mode and tune in with our reality by simply observing it and becoming aware of it.
This way, we can actually live in this moment, and not only enjoy it so much more, but also tune in more with our bodies & minds as we do so.
If you’re on auto-pilot mode all the time, rushing through your day, and not being aware of how you actually feel, the time flies by. The days, weeks and months fly by. And before you know it, you’ve actually spent so much time living on auto-pilot mode – doing things without thinking, without being aware that you are doing them.
You can practice mindfulness on many different ways. There are mindfulness meditations, breathing exercises, and actually you can turn any activity into a mindful activity. Lately, I love indulging myself into mindful cooking. Normally, as I don’t like cooking that much, I tend to rush it and get it over with quickly. I’ve noticed that taking my time and cooking slowly & mindfully, makes the whole process a lot more enjoyable.
If you’d like to learn more about mindfulness, download my free e-book, A Guide to Mindful Living, here, with lots of tips and written in a clear Q&A- format to answer the most asked questions & the best ways to practice it, beginner-proof, but also effective if you’re more advanced.
Check out my free mindfulness meditations in English & Dutch on Insight Timer here.
2. Mindful Eating & Moving
Let’s continue with the basics: during winter, or any season really, it’s important to get enough vitamins, minerals, fresh air & sunlight. Eat enough veggies & fruit, and maybe get creative on finding new ways to include them in your meals.
I’m normally not a huge fan of soups, but it has become my favourite meal in winter. You cannot rush eating soup, which is a great way to eat mindfully & slowly.
Smoothies on the other hand ensure I get my daily dose of fruits. Any hot beverages or meals are perfect to be enjoyed mindfully. The benefits of this? Less binge-eating, weight control, more enjoyment, better digestion and reduce of stress.
Moving your body will also help you in fighting winter blues or lockdown laziness – even if it’s a 10-minute stretch sessions, your body will thank you!
Next time you go on a walk, try to pay attention to everything you can feel & see around you. Mindful walking reduces stress, improves your mood, boosts your energy, and helps you connect more with your body.
Listen here to my podcast on mindful eating and how to improve your relationship with food, your body image & be more kind and compassionate towards yourself.
3. Relax & Recharge Guilt-Free
As I mentioned earlier, this season is a season of introspection, of rest. When we look at nature – which is ultimately, our greatest teacher – we see that animals hold their winter hibernation, lakes freeze, trees lose their leaves and everything stops for a while and slows down.
There’s no denying that us humans are a part, a product of nature too. And as such, it’s important to honour mother nature and allows ourselves to follow its example.
Allow yourself to rest and relax. Let go of the need to do things, constantly. It’s okay to do absolutely nothing. Rest is also productive.
As SCL Health says: “When you turn off all distractions, it allows space for your subconscious to expand, ultimately boosting your creativity. When distracted, our mind jumps to the most obvious answers when trying to solve problems. But once you take the time to exhaust those options, you end up thinking of breakthrough, inventive answers that can lead to some life-changing ideas.”SCL Health
So who knows, maybe that hour or day of putting all tasks aside will benefit you more than you think.
What helps me a lot is making a priority list – a list of things that need to get done first. This helps prevent burn out as you focus on only what’s important instead of being overwhelmed by a huge list of tasks.
Letting yourself rest and recharge is the ultimate gift you can give yourself. After all, nothing ever good comes from pushing through and not listening to our bodies.
4. Connect with your close ones
Whether you’re in lockdown as I am, or you’re as free as a bird: having enough contact with the people closest to you is important for your emotional health, with directly links to your overall health.
Whether it’s a simple text, a video call, or having digital dates (or real life dates if you’re one of the lucky!) cherish these times with your loved ones. Enjoy it.
Also here is mindfulness a beautiful way to improve your relationships and actually enjoy them even more by tapping into the present moment.
5. Dive Into Gratitude
If you’re feeling the winter blues, try this: write a friend or family member a letter or just a text, saying how much you appreciate having them in your life. Show gratitude for them. Research has shown that practising gratitude improves your levels of happiness and even boosts your health.
For me, saying my daily thanks has become a habit – one I love the most. We tend to look at what goes wrong or what we don’t have. Gratitude shows us the other side, a side I think we should all visit more often.
Express your thankfulness with me on this meditation on Insight Timer!
6. Rely on Rituals
If there’s anything I’ve learned the past years about habits, it’s that the right ones bring out the best benefits for you mental, emotional & physical health.
Setting a clear morning & evening ritual helps your body adjust to your daily rhythm and the upcoming day or night.
Instead of diving into your day as soon as you wake up, try taking some time for yourself to get into your day. Starting the day slowly without all the distractions is how you preserve more energy.
Here are some tips for a mindful morning:
On the other hand, closing down your nights calms down your mind & body, making the transition from always being on and awake, to allowing rest & relaxation lead the way.
Sleep experts say limiting your exposure to blue light (or any screen really) benefits your sleep, as well as keeping your bedroom dark & quiet. A mindfulness meditation to relax, a cup of calming tea, and a book to read until you drift off are some of my essentials this winter.
I genuinely hope these tips have helped you in taking care of yourself during winter (or any season, really). It’s so important to check in with ourselves. Your mental health is as important as your physical health. And yes, it comes before work. If you notice yourself tired, stressed or drained, stop. Come back to this moment. Take some deep breaths or whatever helps you in getting back into your day. Maybe it’s a power nap or a midday shower. Stay safe!
f you want to relax and retreat together with beautiful women on a mindfulness retreat, to find more calm, connection and clarity, join us on my Mindfulness Retreat this summer in Portugal!
Bring a girl friend and get both 10% off (only valid for a limited time + spots are running out for august!) 👉🏼
In honour of #EDAwarenessweek, and in honour of all who are battling with an ED, I decided to write this piece about mindful eating – bringing in mindfulness not only during eating, but also before and afterwards.
What is mindfulness, and what is mindful eating? Why and how can we mindfully eat? How does it relate to distorted eating? Find out the answers to these questions below.
What is mindfulness?
First of all, let me explain what mindfulness exactly is. Mindfulness is about bringing your attention to this moment, and focusing on what is going on in your head (noticing thoughts), body (noticing emotions and feelings) and environment. As we practice awareness, we bring in compassion, non-judgment, and curiosity. We want to come from a place of observing our reality instead of serving it, and stop living on automatic pilot, without any awareness of what is going on.
Now, what is mindful eating all about?
Before I explain it, I’d love if you can take the time to reflect on these questions:
- What was the last thing you ate today?
- How did it really taste like?
- What did it look like?
- What was the texture like?
- How long did it take you to eat it?
- Were was your attention while you were eating it?
- Were you focus on the food, or watching, reading something else?
- How did you feel before you ate?
- How did you feel after you ate?
If I would ask you these questions after you went to a Michelin restaurant, you would probably give me way more details about the food then if I were to ask you about your homemade lunch. That’s the beauty of our senses: we can use them to focus our attention back into this moment. Because that expensive meal was so special, you used all your senses to fully savour the moment. By doing it the other way, by engaging our senses, we can make every moment count.
As you might have noticed, mindful eating is about fully focusing on what you are eating. It is also about removing distractions that might keep you from eating mindfully, such as our scrolling through your phone, reading the newspaper, continuing with any activity such as working or even watching the tv.
However, mindful eating starts before the eating part. It is about noticing when you think about food, whether you are really hungry or an addiction or craving or habit is kicking in, through listening to our bodies and bringing in awareness. Awareness, not judgement – we want to not judge ourselves or judge sensations, thoughts or feelings that may arise. We simply notice that they are there, instead of suppressing them of making ourselves feels worse about it.
When you can bring your kind, gentle, non-judgemental curiosity to this, you can then take action as you please – eat when you are hungry, fulfil the craving, continue the habit, feed the addiction – or not. And that is where the power lays: the moment you create the awareness, you create a space, a space where you have the freedom to choose what you do next.
In a scenario of disordered eating, this becomes very interesting. Because after creating awareness, we can bring in compassion to ourselves – hey, it’s okay you are having these thoughts, it’s okay you want to do this. I don’t judge you. You are human. You are doing your best. (space to choose) – so this time, let’s take care and let’s do what it best for the body (however that looks like for you).
Why should I practice mindful eating?
Mindful eating has been proven to reduce binge-eating, eating disorders and illnesses/conditions related to it (obesitas, being overweight, too high calorie intake).
Even if you aren’t struggling with an eating disorder, mindful eating can help you in enjoying your food more, being more present while eating it and savouring it much more than if you were focused on something else and eating without being aware of it.
As we become of our thoughts, and sensations, we have the conscious choice on what to do next – for people with an eating disorder, this can be focusing on the positive and realising that the inner critic voice in your head is not telling the truth and is not who you are, but instead try to bring in some positive self-talk.
When your mind is clouded with negative thoughts about your self-image, body posture or weight, it’s great that you are aware of that, because now you can realise they are just thoughts and you bring in some of your own positive, empowering thoughts, and even do something that is good for you and your body.
How can I practice mindful eating?
When you notice thoughts or sensations that you are getting hungry, or craving a certain type of food, ask yourself: how does my body feel? Am I hungry, or just craving food? (you know when you are hungry when you are open to eating something different than the food you are craving, if you only want 1 type of food it is a craving)
When you are able to check in with your body first – again, with curiosity, non-judgment and compassion – you can give your body what it needs. It is not bad to have a craving, it is not bad to be hungry, we are practising simply noticing it.
Next, when you have brought your awareness to it, and you decided to eat and you have your food in front of you, ask yourself: How does it look like? What is the texture like? What are the colours like? How does it taste like? Take your time with eating, fully savour it, and engage with your 5 senses. What helps is imagining it is a expensive meal in a 5-star restaurant. This automatically allows us to focus on it more, because it would be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
How does mindfulness even relate to disordered eating?
Our world is full of distractions. Bringing in mindfulness whether you have an ED or not, can make you feel better in your own skin, can help increase self-compassion, non-judgment and can help you get out of your mind and back into this moment, making informed decisions and taking action as you think is best.
Are there any studies or proof that it has a positive impact?
Yes, there are studies conducted that prove that mindfulness has a positive impact on people struggling with an eating disorder. These studies were small-scaled and call for further investigation and more experiments, since the results were promising.
“Another study found that mindfulness-based group treatment may be effective for patients suffering from bulimia nervosa. Participants described their transformation from emotional and behavioural extremes, disembodiment and self-loathing to greater self-awareness, acceptance and compassion, according to this study.”https://themeadowglade.com/mindfulness-and-eating-disorders/
The present study is an exploratory examination of the efficacy of the application of mindfulness-based interventions to the treatment of eating disorders. It employs a systematic review technique in which terms from the Psychological Index Terms of the American Psychological Association (APA) were chosen and analyzed in conjunction with Boolean operators. Using data obtained by the online consultation of references from 12 different bibliographical databases, 8 studies were included in the systematic review. Each study reported satisfactory results, although trial qualities were variable and sample sizes were small. Nonetheless, the current study found initial evidence supporting the effectiveness of mindfulness-based interventions to the treatment of eating disorders. The application of mindfulness-based interventions to the treatment of eating disorders remains a promising approach worthy of further research.The application of mindfulness to eating disorders treatment: a systematic review
Rocío Guardiola Wanden-Berghe 1, Javier Sanz-Valero, Carmina Wanden-Berghe
Mindfulness seems to be a good candidate for improving your self-awareness and bringing in more compassion. That makes total sense, since the pillars of mindfulness are awareness, non-judgement, curiosity and compassion.
The fact that is has been scientifically proven and tested on people, is just amazing news – it proof us humans are capable of healing ourselves, not through only medication or other external factors, but from within, form our minds – mindfulness.
Have you tried mindful eating? I challenge you to try it out during your next meal. Notice what difference it makes!
Living mindfully means more than meditating, being calm all the time, or having no stress (that’s impossible and not the goal). Mindful living means making conscious choices instead of living on automatic pilot. It means living our truth, and getting closer to ourselves. I’d like to share with you some powerful lessons that I came across this week. These lessons reminded me that mindfulness and its benefits are so much more than less anxiety, more peace, better sleep,…🤍
1. From rushing to stopping & making conscious choices
Living mindfully means living in this moment. It means to get out of the spiral of rushing through our morning, day, week, month and whole life. It means slowing down and coming back to this very moment.
So, why it is so important to get out of the automatic pilote mode?
When we are in automatic pilot mode, it feels like we are on a treadmill, always going, not stopping for a moment, and doing most of our life automatically – without thinking.
This is not a bad thing of course. I love that I am able to walk without thinking, get in a car and drive without thinking about every little action, and other automatised things in our lives we’ve grown customed to.
It’s about the moments we do want to be present in, the actions we do want to experience, and our lives we don’t want to miss out on. It’s about being able to press pause, and stop rushing through life for a moment. When we are not thinking, our actions flow automatically. When we are present, we can make our own decisions & act accordingly.
A great example is when you are having an argument. Most of us answer without listening. We talk fast, to answer the other person, but actually we have not really listened to them or we have not really thought about what we want to say. We automatically say something back, out of anger, frustration, or whatever is driving you at that moment. When we are mindful – present – we have the chance to pause, to not be lead by our emotions, and in that pause we have the chance to consciously respond.
That’s where the power of mindfulness lies in: conscious choices.
I learned this in handling my anxiety – it started with noticing I was beginning to feel anxious: I noticed my thoughts going in a spiral about a possible outcome about the future, I noticed my palms getting sweaty and my stomach turning around, and I also noticed I was sitting in a bus, totally at peace, undisturbed, and that this anxiety/negative stress was not necessary right now.
So after becoming aware of it, I consciously chose to guide my attention back to my breath – through counting my breaths and taking long, deep breaths. This allows my nervous system to calm down, and guide my mind and body back into this moment, away from the what-if scenarios in my mind.
2. From complaining to giving thanks & having enough
We live in a society that runs fast, as we discussed previously, We are constantly pushed to get a new phone, new car, new clothes, to always get more and more. It makes us feeling like we never have enough. When is it enough? When will we be fulfilled? The thrill of getting the newest phone only lasts a bit. it does not last forever. It fades, and then we satisfy ourselves with something else, and so it goes on and on.
Our society is often making us compare ourselves to others. Our judgmental minds then step in and does not really help us – we are our own worst critics. This amplifies the feeling of not being good enough, not having enough, not doing enough,…
How can mindfulness stop us from the treadmill or wanting more and allow us to appreciate what we have?
By showing gratitude, and focusing on all the things we can be grateful for and say thanks for, we shift our minds from lack to abundance. We go from not having x to I am grateful that I have x.
A process called neuroplasticity shows that the neural networks in our brains are able to change through growth and reorganisation (Wikipedia). In simple terms, we can re-write our brains by training it. How? By shifting our thoughts and mindset.
This is what happens when we practice gratitude. We are training our brain to recognise the good in a situation, to recognise the opportunity, to recognise what we do already have, instead of focusing on what’s lacking.
And there is only one way to practice gratitude: in this very moment. We cannot be grateful while being sad. We cannot experience any other emotion while being grateful, that’s the power and beauty of it. Where gratitude exists, the present moment is used to its fullest: to recognise our blessings.
Start with thinking about 1-3 things you can be grateful for when you wake up or go to sleep. Proceed by writing a gratitude list daily. You’ll notice the more you do this, the more things pop up which you can say thanks for. You don’t have to lok far for it: the simple fact that you are alive, reading this, and breathing, are things we often take for granted and is something you can definitely say thanks for.
3. From waiting on something to happen in order to be happy to living in joy right now
We are always thinking about the next big thing – the next day, the next presentation, the next gratification, the next trigger that gives us that hit of dopamine.
We have this picture in our minds of how things will go, and we keep telling us : I’ll be happy then. I’ll be happy when I make it through the end of the week and head into the weekend. But why can’t we be happy at the beginning of the week, or int he middle? Why do we feel the need to get through something in order to finally feel happy?
These boosts, these sort-lasting hits of dopamine we get through instant gratification are way different than the long-lasting joy we can access right now.
When we get back to this moment, we can let go of the worrying, the fantasising,
How can mindfulness help us access longlasting, inner joy in this moment instead of waiting for it to happen?
Simply guiding our attention to our breath, our surroundings can bring us back to this moment. When we are in this moment, we realise we have all that we need, right here, right now.
When we pay attention to our reality right now, we realise how wonderful it is and then, joy comes from within. Live like this everyday, and you’ll start to build up your inner “ball of joy”. That feeling of appreciation will get easier to access.
Train your mind to see the wonders of life in this very moment. Instead of looking for contentment in the future, trying to chase something that will never fill up the cravings, stop. Stop and feel the joy of this very moment.
How? By practising mindfulness. By paying attention: to the little things, to the big things, to the running water when you shower, to nature, to the clouds, to fresh air, to your bed, to every new morning you get to experience.
Simply guide your attention to the here and now. And you’ll notice that you’ll start to see your worries in your mind as what they try are: just thoughts. Not the truth.
Stay true to yourself. You’ve got this!
For more information on mindfulness, and how to exactly bring your attention back to this moment through breath, the 5 senses or many more ways, check out the other blogs on this topic, get your free copy of my mindfulness e-book or sign up for my weekly newsletter here.
If you’d like to have a deeper, private guidance with mindfulness, I’ve recently opened up 2 spots for private coaching. Sign up here for a free clarity call and let’s connect!
Happy Valentine’s Day! Today is all about showing love and appreciation to your loved ones. You might have seen a lot of self-love themed marketing campaigns, where companies try to sell you jewellery, skincare, flowers, chocolates, all to treat yourself. This is one way of showing yourself appreciation, yes, but there are a million other ways, less expensive, less big grand gestures, that we incorporate into our daily lives and show ourselves daily self-love.
Self-Compassion vs Self-Love
Recently, I wrote a blog post about mindful self-compassion, meaning giving ourselves exactly what we need in that moment and being our own best friend instead of enemy. However, self-love is different from self-compassion, Whereas self-compassion is more about compassion towards ourself, self-love is all about showing yourself appreciation!
In psychology, self-love is known to not be selfish, but necessary to have a healthy relationship with yourself (even in times of failure) while impacting others positively as well.
“It all starts with you! If you are not in a good place, characterised by balance, compassion, and inner peace, you are likely in no position to do your best work or be the best partner, parent, or friend that you can be.”Courtney Ackerman, PositivePsychology.com
Benefits & the Why of Self-Love
Showing ourselves compassion and appreciation in the difficult moments is important because it helps us overcome it. A mindful approach would be: I acknowledge these feelings that I have, and I remain curious and open about them, while soothing myself knowing I am not alone in this, knowing this will not last forever, and I give myself what I feel is best for me in that moment,
The benefits of self-love range from protection against depression, greater happiness, more motivation in life to healthy relationships, and the list goes on.
Self-Love & the 5 Love Languages
As I mentioned before, self-love does not have to be a great, grand gesture, buying yourself something or spending money on something necessarily. There are 5 love languages: words of affirmation, quality time, gifts, physical touch and acts of service, If your love language is mainly gifts, then it would make sense if you’re happy buying yourself gifts. We all have a mixture of love languages, some might have been influenced by our childhood: how other people showed us love. Figuring out your love languages can help you navigate through relationships and understand the other person better, but it can also help you in practising self-love.
What is your biggest love language? How can you show that to yourself?
For example, mine are words of affirmation and quality time, therefore I love to schedule out some me-time, doing things I love or that make me feel good (spa night, manicure, cooking myself dinner, meditating, journaling,…) speaking of journalling, that goes into the “words of affirmation bucket, as I love to write myself a love letter, and also state affirmation in front of the mirror. its like shooting an arrow and hitting it right into the bullseye: giving yourself exactly what you value so much in other relationships.
The Little, Big Things
But let’s talk about the smaller, yet as important, ways on which we can incorporate self-love into our daily lives. Taking care of ourselves and our space is highly underrated.
Making your bed
Making your bed is a keystone habit, meaning it reflects other choices you take in life and it heightened your discipline, and reflects even your financial situation: it is one of the most important habits and also. way of showing yourself love: keeping the space where you rest, which is *highly* important, a safe and neat space.
Put your health and wellbeing first
Yesterday I had my annual dentist’s appointment, and I realised this is also a way of taking care of ourselves and showing ourselves that we are worth it, that we care about ourselves. You would not let someone you love abandon their health, would you? You would encourage them to take care of it. Even these less glamorous moments are the ones that count.
Making sure you drink enough water, get your vitamins, move your body, take care of your overall health and wellbeing is a great way to show yourself love on a daily basis without having to make big gestures.
Take care of your mental health, too
Mindfulness has drastically changed my life for the better, helping me overcome my severe anxiety, and it was also a way of self-love. I was taking medication doctors prescribed me against the anxiety, but actually I was not at all handling the root cause: my mind. I was trying to fix my body. But then, who knows for how long I would have taken those pills if it wasn’t for mindfulness? It was an investment of money, time and effort, going through an 8 week MBSR course (Mindfulness Bases Stress Reduction), but the benefits are here for a whole lifetime, as I continue to expand my mindfulness skills and am now teaching it, 6 years later.
Of course, I am not saying mindfulness can resolve any mental health issue or disease, so please talk to a health care professional first. I am just sharing my experience on this. Even a couple minutes of meditation a day is incredibly beneficial to you, and to reap those benefits all you have to do is schedule a bit of me-time during your day.
Release the guilt
As I mentioned before, it is necessary we give ourselves what we need in that specific moment. Whether that is a nap, a dessert, a video call with a friend, or a good run. But sometimes, we have this voice in our head judging us and making us feel guilty for having that ice-cream, binge-watching that show, skipping a run because we feel tired, etc. Releasing the guilt of not doing something is crucial here.
Imagine a friend is very tired from work, and they do not feel like going on a run with you. They are completely drained and much rather rest at home. Your reaction would not be: you are weak, you have to go for a run, how dare you rest, you need to move? No, your reaction would probably be: that is okay I totally understand, take all the rest you need.
So, why it is so difficult to have this approach to ourselves? It all has to do with self-talk and the way we look at ourselves. If we can bring in more of that appreciation and compassion, we can slowly by slowly change our self-talk and actually allow ourselves to do what feels right. I will discuss this further in the next chapter “self talk”.
Because, as with many things in life, restriction leads to binging. If we cannot have something, we want it so much more. While giving yourself what you need, that occasional ice cream (for example) is not a total distaster and you enjoy it mindfully and guilt-free.
We are the person we talk to the most in our lives.
How do you talk to yourself? How do you see yourself? How would you like to see yourself? What would it take for you to see yourself that way?
I discussed this in my previous post about self-compassion: 1 component of mindful self-compassion is going from self-judgment to self kindness. We are our biggest critics. Sure, this protects us and this helps us in improving and being our own best selves, but it can also bring us down, make us feel small, helpless, a victim.
Instead of going that direction, notice it is *only* your inner critic judging you, and that you know better. You do not have to listen to it, you have to be aware of it. In that moment of awareness, you create space. Space for you to choose: will I get caught up in what my inner citric has to tell me, or will I say: not today?
As with a lot of things in life, the first step of being more kind to yourself and show yourself more self-love, compassion and appreciation, is becoming aware. Becoming aware of what your love language is, of how you talk to yourself, how you treat yourself, how you take care of yourself. That is where mindfulness steps in and helps us becoming aware on a non-judgmental, curious way.
If you’re curious right now about mindfulness, download my free e-book A Guide to Mindful Living here, or check out other blogposts about mindfulness. Listen to my podcast about mindful living and purposeful traveling during your next run, walk or commute, and let me know what you found of it!
Sending lots of love, and remember to be kind to yourself this Valentines day and any other day!
As I write a new blogpost every week, I found myself quite un-inspired this week. But, as everything is connected, often it’s best to take a look at what you are going through at the moment, what you are learning, and share it with others. Because there is always someone who you can help. So, the theme of this week’s blog post is: lockdown life. And no, this will not be another lifestyle post with sponsored products to make your stay-at-home life better. This post concerns the emotional aspect of dealing with a pandemic and how we can handle emotions, thoughts & feelings better.
Humans are not meant to live in lockdown, separate from others. We live in communities, with our close and loved ones. We have a natural urge to travel, to go places, to discover the many cultures of this beautiful world.
So, being in lockdown, in quarantine, since 2020, it takes its toll on us. This month especially, with high hopes for 2021, I’ve been disappointed as these high hopes did not come true. I live as an expat in Portugal and it’s just entered a new full lockdown, such as in March 2020. Luckily, I’ve been able to deal with these difficult emotions through practising mindfulness. So let’s move on how to dealing with these lockdown blues, and how to shift your mindset to remaining optimistic for the future.
As a Mindfulness teacher, I will always give you the advice to sit with any feelings and emotions that arise. Not only will it allow you to see the root cause behind them, it will also make you feel better, processing the feeling and moving on afterwards.
Mindfulness means: becoming aware of what is happening in your mind, body and surroundings: paying attention to it, and bringing in kindness, curiosity, compassion and non-judgement.
These next steps are part of the R.A.I.N. technique and have helped me and many clients in dealing with difficult emotions.
1. Recognise. Notice when you are feeling lonely, anxious, or sad. Notice this feeling. Do you feel it in your body? What are your thoughts like? Recognise this feeling or emotion.
2. Acknowledge. Instead of fighting it, try to accept it. Know that is will pass, too. Nothing stays forever. You will not be sad forever. You will not be anxious forever. Focus on this moment, right here, right now.
Imagine this feeling is like a cloud, passing through. By fighting it, by resisting it, you are only making it harder for yourself. So instead, lean in. Accept the feeling is visiting you right now, and welcome it. It’s okay. It won’t last forever.
3. Investigate. Next, ask yourself: why am I feeling like this? What event cause this? What triggered this feeling to arise? Is it real or false? We are living so much in our minds, playing what-if scenarios, that our bodies actually respond to it, as if it was really happening. Mindfulness allows us to come back to this moment instead of living in our heads.
4. Non-identification. Remember the cloud, passing through? Kindly remind yourself that you are not this feeling.The person who is noticing this feeling, that is you. The feeling is just a visitor.
As you might have noticed, this technique is called the R.A.I.N. technique. It’s a mindful practice to deal with difficult emotions.
Us humans need connection. As many of us are separated from their friends, family or other close and loved ones, it can be hard missing deep connection, or physical touch.
As I’ve mentioned before, our bodies cannot recognise the difference between a fake or real thought. The same goes for physical touch. When you hug yourself your brain does gives the same response as when someone else would be hugging you. The physical sensation is the same: you feel held and comforted. If you are missing the physical sensation, I highly recommend you to try this out.
Another big help is self-love. When we feel we are lacking love, it can feel like a gap, an empty space, only someone else can fulfil. We are often craving love from someone else, but we can give it to ourselves, too. I’ve created a self-love meditation on Insight Timer and SoundCloud, free to acces, which is a lovely practice to comfort, soothe and love yourself.
Have something to look forward to
This is a very important one. In order to stay optimistic, it’s helpful to set goals you’d like to accomplish, or subscribe for events you’d like to attend.
Reflect on what is your sparkle of hope – maybe it’s the ability to travel again, a family reunion, a wedding, birthday or a solo travel adventure. For all the travel lovers reading this, check out these blog posts on keeping your travel spirit alive at home, the power of travel coaching (which I’m now internationally certified for!), and how why quarantine made us better travelers.
Again, recognising that everything is temporary, we can also remind ourselves that this won’t last forever. Vaccines are being rolled out, which means there is light at the end of the tunnel. We will not be in this pandemic forever. It will end too, some day. So until then, what can you look forward to? What can you prepare, learn, or set as a goal for yourself?
See this extra time you got as a blessing. Or, if you’re living with your family and you’re thinking: time? I’m so busy with them! See this as a chance to connect with them more deeply, while setting time apart for yourself, even if it’s 5 minutes a day.
I hope this post has helped you in navigating through this pandemic, whether you are in lockdown, quarantine, or having difficulty dealing with these unusual times. If you’d like to learn more about mindfulness or meditation, sign up for my weekly inspiration newsletter here and follow me on Instagram here!
1. Set a clear intention
First things first: let’s make a priority list of things that matter most to you, and you wish to work on this year. This can go from learning more recipes to meditating more to eating healthier to loving yourself more. (hack: the one you wrote first is probably the one that’s most important to you!)
Now you’ve got the basis of your New Year’s Intention. Now take a seat, take 3 of the deepest breaths you’ve taken today, put one hand on your hand and ask yourself: what do I need to focus on most this year?
Whatever pops up in your mind, write it down. Maybe it’s already on your list, maybe you can add it – on the top of your list.
This intention is something you can remind yourself of during your day, week, month, entire year. Carry this intention with you to know what matters most. If your intention was to love yourself more, and you catch yourself judging yourself or being yourself up, gently notice it, remind yourself of the promise you made to yourself and bring in some kindness to yourself.
2. Make it actionable
Next, take a look at this intention and ask yourself: how can I take action towards fulfilling this intention?
Maybe it’s checking in with yourself more, journalling your feelings to understand them better, making conscious choices at the supermarket or mindfully eating, or incorporating a self-love practice into your evening.
Think of at least 1 action you can take to make this intention happen.
3. Visualise the outcome
Next, close your eyes again, still sitting in a comfortable position, and picture + feel yourself living as if this intention were true. As if you were already eating healthier, loving yourself more, cooking new recipes, or meditating more.
Tune into the feelings of this reality, and come back to this quick visualisation exercise every day, or a much as you’d like to. Believe that from now on, you are on a new timeline. You made a new start, a new promise to yourself. You are already where you want to be. You are already doing the work and putting in the effort, time and energy into it.
4. Reward yourself & look back to the progress you’ve made along the way
Don’t forget to reward yourself, give yourself a big hug whenever you take conscious action and break the patterns that you so badly needed to break.
Do not take it for granted, but instead train yourself to keep going by rewarding yourself. I love to reward myself with a little piece of dark chocolate, knowing I love this as a treat + I’m actually nourishing my body with it.
Along your journey, no matter how hard it gets, or if you feel like forgetting this intention or stop putting in the work and effort, stop. Pause. Take a deep breath and go back to the meditation we did in the beginning. Put one hand on your heart and remind yourself of the promise you made. Remind yourself you are trying, and that is enough. You are on your way, and working on what you feel is best for you.
5. Stay grounded in practices that make you, your best self
What helps me in maintaining this journey of self-growth are small, inspired actions. This can be free flow- writing (I sit down and let myself write everything I want to write for 10 mins), doing yoga, a quick (or long) meditation, or simply taking action working on my dreams and goals, no matter how scary and uncertain the outcome may look like.
The truth is the future has always been uncertain, and always will be uncertain. One of my favourite quotes from Lao Tzu describes this perfectly:
“When you are sad, you are living in the past. When you are anxious, you are living in the future. When you are at peace, you are living in the present.”Lao Tzu
Do yourself a favour, and ground yourself in the present moment as often as you can. Through practising mindfulness, you’ll notice that most of the worries that are circling around in your head, are simply made up: a fantasy, created by no one less than you yourself.
This year, step away from the monkey mind and ground yourself in the present moment, reminding yourself of what matters most (intention) and taking actions towards fulfilling this intention. Know that you are already on your way, you are already in the process of becoming who you want to be. Whether that’s a healthier you, a happier you, or a more kind and loving you.
Keep going, and once in a while, turn around and look at the progress you’ve made so far. Don’t be afraid to give yourself credit for it, and love yourself through it all.
The holiday season can be a crazy period for many of us. Juggling with our full calendars between online work meetings, remote family dinners, and online Christmas parties, our stress levels can go up while we end this crazy year and get swept up into the new year. What if I tell you there’s another way? There’s many ways, actually, to cope with our stress, to bring ourselves back into this space of kindness and compassion, to handle a full calendar with more clarity and calm, and to overall handle this holiday season with a cool head. Here are 7 mindful practices to help you as we navigate through the last two weeks of 2020.
1. Set an intention
The holiday season has different meanings to all of us. Setting an intention for the next two weeks can help you remember what is important and what you wish to focus on. It can be from : “I protect my peace” to “I allow myself to enjoy this season and take time to slow down”. Write your intention down & start your day with it. Your daily intention can look different than your “holiday intention”, so don’t worry about being too strict on it. The purpose of the intention is to tap into how you wish to feel during the day/ weeks by setting the tone. Whenever you face challenges or you get swept away by the craziness of life, remind yourself of your intention and take a moment to slow down.
Visualising your intention and how your day will go is a very powerful tool. Used by many athletes to predict how they will perform in contests, visualisation meditation or exercises have been proven to positively influence the desired outcome. When you set an intention, take a minute to visualise it coming true. How does that make you feel? What feelings arise? What do you notice? Act as if it already came true.
2. Breathing & meditation practices
Stay calm & relaxed by practising breathing exercises or by meditating. The 4-7-8 exercise helps calm down your nervous system which results in a calmer mind and body. Breathe in for 4 counts, hold for 7 counts, and breathe out for 8 counts. Another breathing exercise to add to your toolkit id the box breathing method, or 4-4-4-4 method. Breathe in for 4 counts, hold for 4, breathe out for 4, hold for 4, and repeat as many times as necessary. Proven to boost your focus, performance and lower stress levels, this is a great exercise to do between tasks.
A mindfulness or relaxation meditation keeps the stress levels to a minimum. There are plenty of apps or free online guided meditations. My personal favourite is Insight Timer – where I’m also listed as a teacher and post English and Dutch meditations. If you’re new to meditation, this can be the perfect time to start with it. Maybe you have more free time – great! Maybe you have less free time – even better, because that means you need a slow-down moment more than ever.
3. Spread kindness
This season can be extra challenging or difficult for you and others. Acting from a place of kindness and compassion not only towards others but towards yourself, helps lighten the load. Notice when your mind tends to drift off to negative thoughts, do this powerful thoughts exercise to shift your mindset, and take back control by coming back to yourself. Knowing the difference between your thoughts and your Self is the key here. Your thoughts are not facts, nor are your feelings – read more about that here. Remember, you have the choice and chance to shift to kindness.
4. Self-care rituals
Set time aside to unplug and reset. Self-care means giving yourself what you need, what makes you feel good, and going it guilt-free. This can look like a spa pampering evening, but it can also look like doing absolutely nothing. It can look like binge-watching Netflix while indulging in your favourite snack, or it can look like doing a HIIT workout and filling your body with endorphins. Whatever you need this season, give it to yourself. Show yourself you matter and prioritise yourself + your needs, whatever they might look like.
5. Create fixed routines
Having healthy habits can do wonders for your mental and physical wellbeing. Hold on to these certainties during these uncertain times. Wherever you are, stay disciplined and set time aside for the habits that build up your best self. These can be habits you’ve already built up, or maybe you feel it’s time to try out something new.
When we are in a different or new environment, it can be easier to create habits, because your brain still has not made any associations within this environment. However, when you’re visiting an old, familiar place such as your parents house, you will notice you’ll be drawn back into old habits or behaviours. It’s especially in this scenario we need the disciple we’ve built up to continue our habits and make our wellbeing a priority. Set up a reward system to give yourself credit for keeping up with it!
6. Give yourself grace
This season, show grace to yourself. No one is perfect. A failed recipe, an angry email from your boss, not being able to hug your family members – accept what is, and greet it with grace. Let go of what is outside of your control, and remind yourself you’re doing the best you can. Forgive yourself for mistakes made, and see the lesson you have learned from this mistake, so you’ll never make it again.
Grace allows you to take a step back and have faith that you are improving yourself and the way you interact with the world. Being reminded that everything will turn out okay and remaining hopeful even when things don’t work out as planned, is a muscle we can all train during these times.
7. Live in the present moment
This post would’t have mindfulness in the title without mentioning the present moment. After having dealt with fear, separation and uncertainty throughout this year, allow yourself to bring in kindness and compassion to your feelings and emotions. The first step is to notice what is going on in your mind and body – when you have negative thoughts or you feel a headache rising, notice it and instead of fighting it, accept it. Gently bring your attention to it, and instead of living in your fantasy about the future or a grievance over the past, bring your attention back to this very moment, today, here and now.
We cannot control the future, we cannot go back and change the past, but we can do our best to make this moment as magical as possible. I have written an e-book about mindful living, grab your copy totally for free here!
8. Tap Into Gratitude
When you feel gratitude, you cannot feel another negative emotion at the same time. We often don’t realise what we’re blessed with in our lives. Our brain tends to search for what is missing, what could be better, and what needs to be changed. When we are in a state of gratitude. we rewiere our brain – it’s called neuroplasticity – to recognise the good in situations and by giving thanks for what we have, we also uplift our mood.
The holidays can be both a magical and challenging time, and that’s okay. Part of being human is having different types of emotions, moods, good and bad days. What’s important is to know how to deal with them and love yourself through it all. I genuinely hope these tips help you. If you’d like to learn more about mindfulness, follow my Instagram for inspiring and educational content about mindful and purposeful living, sign up for my weekly newsletter here or listen to my podcast and meditations here. Happy Holidays!
Whether you celebrate Thanksgiving or not, we can all use a little bit more gratitude this year. Just because things didn’t go according to plan and we were faced with many challenges, tuning into thankfulness can strengthen us and remind us of what we do have in our lives right now.
So how do we tune into this state of gratitude?
Here are some ways on how to tap into gratitude and how to make it a habit in your life.
A gratitude list is a simple thing to write, yet it has the power to put us in such a good mood. Start with writing 3 or 5 things you can be grateful for while you’re reading the newspaper or you’re having your morning coffee or evening tea. You’ll notice that not only will you be more appreciative of the small things and the big things, you’ll also think about more and more things to put on that list. As it gets longer, your mornings and evenings get better.
Ive done a little experiment this year: from January 1st, I have done a gratitude meditation every evening.
Why evening? Because going to sleep with a feeling of gratitude allows you to wake up happy and fulfilled.
Here’s my thought on this experiment: although it was though – the more I felt down or sad, the furthest away I felt from doing a gratitude meditation. But right on those moments, the downs, is when we need something to uplift us. So, even if it was challenging, I did my meditation every evening and it always made me feel amazing. What changed from the version of me before the meditation vs after the meditation? Nothing but my mindset and perspective. I didn’t receive any news, nothing actually changed in my day or my life, but solely by putting myself in a gratitude mindset made me feel so calm, light and happy.
So a gratitude meditation is a beautiful way to express your thankfulness, and I’ve created this daily gratitude meditation on Insight Timer. Try it out, for free, and notice how you feel before & afterwards.
Shifting your perspective
Instead of saying, I am sorry I am late, say: thank you for waiting. Shifting your words and thoughts when you catch them being passive, or negative, is your biggest challenge and teacher. When we notice our thoughts heading into a negative spiral, we can stop for a moment, smile at them, knowing they are not real, and instead bring in the positive side of it. It can be anything – from a random thought popping up or a certain situation that has happened and that you perceive to be negative.
Shifting your perspective can be very powerful. Here’s a small exercise I’d like you to try out: write down all the experiences in your life you first thought were absolutely catastrophic, but then turned out to have a positive influence on your life. For me, this was my biggest break-up, after being together for 4 years I got dumped. I was absolutely crushed. Heartbroken. I was a mess. But this breakup allowed me to grow, and go my own way, and when I look back now, I see I completely transformed in a good way. It brought me closer to myself.
This is just an example of how we can find unexpected blessings in what e first though to be curses. For this, we need to let go of the expectation and stop holding onto a certain outcome.
We often take lots of things for granted, but when we stop for a moment and realise how much of a blessing it really is, we rewire our brains to see the positive side of things, and consequently, that means more happiness and less complaining.
Scientific research has shown us that when we feel gratitude, we cannot experience negative feelings at the same time. Its gratitude, and gratitude only, that courses through our bodies. How amazing is that?
Another benefit of giving thanks might seem a bit more woo-woo to some, but nonetheless very powerful: we are energetic beings. Yes, we are. We are made out of millions of cells. When we put these cells under a microscope, we don’t see something vast, we see energy. So, if you zoom out of the picture, we are made out of energy!
What we think of, and what we feel, we attract more of in our lives. Tapping into gratitude puts you into a state of receiving: you evoke the feeling of how it is to already have something in your life. This feeling of abundance, of joy and happiness, will then allow you to attract more of that in your life.
Giving thanks can uplift us and rewire our brains to see the positive in even challenging situations. Start with small habits such as writing a gratitude list, or trying out a gratitude meditation, to tune into this beautiful state of mind.
With winter around the corner + a new lockdown for some countries, many of us are not only facing those winter blues, but now there’s also a thing as lockdown blues. Days become shorter and nights become longer. Being separated from our loved ones and having limited time to spend outdoors takes its toll on our overall wellbeing.
To keep it short: there are many reasons for why this time can be challenging for you. On top of that, your work life probably keeps going on, and maybe you’ve got even more work on your hands.
Here are 4 mindfulness practises that can come in handy during a season of low energy and feeling like the fire, that candle within you, is almost burn out. Let’s keep it lightened up!
1. Practising awareness
Becoming aware of you doing something is step one. And it’s a big step. We live on auto-pilot most of the time – recent studies tell us mor ethan hal of the things we do happens without us realizing it. Mindfulness is all about shifting that auto-pilot mode and taking the wheel in our own hands. Become aware of what you do. Next time you brush your teeth, watch Netflix or start scrolling on Instagram, try to become aware of it.
Maybe you recognize this: you end up scrolling endelssly on social media without even realizing it, afterwards wishing you hadn’t spend that much time on it. That is what happens when we stay on auto-pilot mode and are not really present.
When we shift our attention to this moment, we become aware of what we are doing. The auto-pilot mode gets disrupted, and we can take control again. Don’t get me wrong – I’m not saying you should never again scroll on social media or watch Netflix for hours. Mindfulness simply asks us to bring our attention to what we are doing, without any judgment, instead bringing in kindess + curiosity. When you are bingewatching Netflix or scrolling through social media, notice how that feels like for you and what effect it has on you, try to be curious.
2. Recharging check-ins
When our phone is low on battery, we plug it in. When our computer is having issues, we restart it.
You deserve a recharge or a restart as much as your devices.
Mindfulness is all about focusing our attention on the present moment. To notice our breath, how our bodies feel and the environment arround us.
And it all beings with your attention. Redirect your attention to your breath. How are you breathing right now? When we are focused, we tend to hold our breath. This causes our brains to receive less oxygen – and our brains desperately need oxygen to function properly.
If you’re a person who tends to push through work and hop on that treadmill everyday, regardless of how full your battery is, one thing you can start with is setting an alarm to take a break from a project every 2 hours. Go for a walk, do a meditation, take a nap, drink some water, eat a snack, do some stretches,…. taking a small moment for yourself will allow you to return to your day with a fresh mind and body.
3. Holding onto Purpose
Something I have heard clients struggle with the last few weeks, is a lack of motivation + purpose. What gets you up in the morning? What is your reason to own the day and shine brightly?
Setting an intention on a daily basis can help you navigate through the day. Whenever you feel lost, you can remind yourself of the intention you set for the day and take action. This intention can change on the daily, depending on the foucs of the day.
When you focus on this one intention, this purpose, you can see the impact and importance of the actions that you take.
Let’s say you have a big presentation coming up today, and you just woke up, and to be honest you already feel a bit anxious + stressed about it. Setting an intention to remain present + grounded and do your best can help you tackle the day. When you feel stressed, use your intention to come back to and say to yourself: I am present, grounded and I am doing my best. This will put you in the right mindspace but also lead you to take action on the next best thing you can do.
Remember to stay kind to yourself – as I’ve said, mindfulnesss focuses on non-judgment, curiosity and kindness.
4. Purposeful Breathing
You’ll notice that when you take 3 deep breahts (maybe now would be a good time, go on) instantly relaxes you and releases some pressure of your kettle.
Our breath gives us life. It gives us energy. The fact that you are reading this right now and breahting without even knowing it, is a miracle.
What’s even better is that we can play with our breath and allow it to influence our state of being.
When you are tired, try to do an energising breathing exercise: the 6-2 method. Breathe in for 6 seconds, fully exhale for 2 seconds. Repeat until you feel energised + recharged again.
When you are feeling foggy in your mind, and in need of concentration and focus, try the box breathing method, used by many athletes to improve performance and attention. Breathe in for 4, hold for 4, breathe out for 4, hold for 4. Repeat until you feed more focused + relaxed.
When you are feeling energised and you want to relax and slow down, try the 4-7-8- method: breathe in for 4, hold for 7 and exhale for 8. The long exhales send signals to your brain to relax your nervous system and slow down.
Burnout, as one of my favourite mentors Jay Shetty says, is continuously running, instead of walking. It’s like you’re living life on a threadmill, without stopping, and pushing through (mostly) work. I hope these mindfulness practices and tips help you to check in more often with yourself and be mindful of the things you do, so you can stop running, and start walking at your own pace, in peace and with purpose.
If you want to start living a more mindful life, grab your free copy of my e-book, a guide to Mindful Living! Why for free? Because I deserve everyone deserves peace. And this year has been challenging enough. It’s a little gift to you, from me.
Another resource on Black Friday promotion right now is my 10-day mindfulness & self-growth course Flow. You’ll learn all about meditation, mindfulness, overcoming limiting beliefs, shifting your mindset, practising gratitude, developing healthy habits and so much more! Claim your 50% off before the price goes up again. ⏰
2020 has been a lot, right? Maybe this week has been a lot, or even this day, as you’re reading this.
There’s nothing we can change about what happens around us, but there we can take care of our own wellbeing by showing up for ourselves and others the best way possible.
Here are a few ways on how you can navigate through (another) lockdown and the beginning of a new season. Because as the seasons change, so do our natural rhythms.
1. Check In With Yourself
We tend to rush through our days, constantly pushing through and waiting for that moment – Friday night, the weekend, finishing up work,… while taking a moment to calm down and check in with yourself can be all you need at that time.
Before your next meeting, presentation or whenever you have a minute, take a seat, take 3 deep breaths and relax the tensed parts in your body. If you have some more time, turn it into a mini-meditation, where you gently watch your breath as it comes and goes, and allow your thoughts to come and go as well, like clouds.
You will notice that taking this small moment to check in with your body, notice how it general feels and how you feel emotionally, can do wonders. Bringing in mindfulness into our daily lives allows us to stop living on auto-pilot and start living with intention and awareness.
Another way to check in with yourself is to journal. Take 5 minutes for a free flow – write down whatever comes up in your mind, and gently release it from your mind onto paper. If you’re not the writer, try to come up with a gratitude list and write down only 5 or 10 things you can be grateful for. Gratitude helps shift your focus from what is missing to what you have in your life and be thankful for.
2. Listen To Your Body
Coming back to the pushing through we normally do, I would like to remind you that rest is productive as well. Breaks are needed. Rest is needed.
We have entered a new season -fall/winter. During this season, it’s time to retreat within, to reflect, to rest and to listen to your mind & body. It’s the time of the year to nestle and spend time at home, to go inward. Animals hibernate, as we need to take more rest and sleep more, too. It’s how our natural rhythms work.
So next time you feel tired, drained or burnt out, take a moment to listen to your body. Don’t feel guilty for resting or taking a nap. It’s not selfish, on the contrary: if you don’t feel well, how can you be there for others?
Starting out with the basics – fuelling your body with the right nutrients, drinking enough of water and getting enough sleep (7-9 hours), can do wonders for your general health & wellbeing, thus influences how you feel, too.
I’ve never been the type to work out or even move daily, but since this year (and lockdown), I’ve realised that movement is medicine. In the morning, gentle stretches or morning yoga help me tune in with myself and wake up my body. In the evening, I love to relax my muscles and gentle prepare my body for a good night rest with some restorative yoga. Everyone’s body is different, so take a moment to notice what your body needs, and pick a movement you enjoy doing – it can be as simple as waking. Setting an intention – to relax, energise or restore – helps in having a successful session.
Breathwork can work miracles. A session of energising breathing exercises (breathing in for 6, breathing out for 2), kicks in better than a morning expresso. On the other hand, whenever you feel all over the place and in need of focus, the box breathing, often used by athletes to heighten concentration and performance, works its magic: breathe in for 4, hold for 4, breathe out for 4, and old for 4. Repeat as many times as necessary. And lastly, to help you relax and calm down: the 4-7-8 breathing exercise. Breathe in for 4, hold for 7 and breathe out for 8.
3. reach out to close & loved ones
More than ever, social contact is important. We need to remind ourselves that social distance doesn’t mean emotional distance.
If you’re separated from most of your friends and family and you live abroad like I do, try to schedule video calls with the family, digital dates with your BFF and regularly check in with each others simply by sending a quick text.
If you can still see your close & loved ones, enjoy the quality time you can have with them as much as you can. It’s important to cultivate meaningful relationships, and maintaining them is equally as important, if not more important. Try out fun things to do on a date, head out for your favourite food or go on a Christmas shopping spree. I personally love to spoil people with gifts, and even if I am not sure I will be able to spend Christmas with them this year, I definitely plan on sending them the gifts in case I cannot be there. Intention is what counts, and that feeling is what people remember too.
If you can still go outside, definitely do that, too. Even a small adventure, staycation or venture out in nature can do wonders for your wellbeing, whether you’re alone or can have some company.
4. rituals & routines
One thing I have learned through the year, is: when all is uncertain, create your own certainty. Hold on to that certainty and let it grow you.
Creating nourishing routines & rituals helps you stay grounded. When you wake up, what is the first thing you do? Let’s say it’s grabbing your phone and checking in with the online world. Is that a routine that makes you feel good, or not?
I’m not the one who is telling you whether a routine, habit or ritual Is good for you or not. I am the person who gently reminds you to be mindful of what you do, speak, eat, and consume. They all have an influence on your mind and body. Starting your morning the right way launches a beautiful day. Ending your day the right way allows you to relax and rest, no matter what happened during the day.
Some mindful moments I picked up after a year of working from home and navigating through challenging times, are:
- Drinking a glass of water
- Morning stretches or yoga to wake up my body
- Write a gratitude list/free flow journalling
- Get ready
- Check phone
Whenever I wake up not so great, I know that after stretching or after meditating, I feel so much better. Routines are there to help us create certainty in our lives, no matter what uncertainties are taking place beyond our control.
When I finish my day, I make sure to do some restorative, relaxing yoga, watch my favourite show or something that uplifts me, schedule in some self-care time (a face mask, mani/pedi), have a warm drink and journal about the day and do anything else that relaxes me at that time. Before I drift off, I love to put on a sleeping meditation or some natural sounds, like ocean waves.
I’ve noticed these habits shift my mood and my wellbeing so much, no matter what happens throughout the day, so I highly recommend you to think about what routine or habit serves you or you would like to start trying out. It’s those small moments that help you prepare for what’s next, whether that is a fresh day, a big presentation or a night of rest.
I genuinely hope these tips will help you navigate through a new season and perhaps a new lockdown too, whenever you are in the world. We can get through this. You can get through this. Remember to take care of yourself and fill your own cup, before you start pouring your empty while giving to others.