Using Mindfulness When Facing Challenges
I was thinking about how to apply mindfulness when facing a challenge and I came across this list of challenges I made years ago:
- Dealing with difficult people
- Being assertive without being labelled a “bitch”
- Managing stress
- Keeping up a positive image while managing perceptions
- Staying Organized
- Communication (communicating clearly with others)
- Multi-tasking and completing projects
- Self-sabotage, facing fears and following through
- Continued personal growth
- Letting go (of things that no longer matter)
- Saying “No” – prioritizing
- Continued professional development
- Reaching Goals, facing my fear of success
- Increasing efficiency
- Managing finances
I am still, and now realize that I always will be, dealing with these challenges to some degree. And more challenges – some worse, and sometimes less challenging but equally important things. I call that the “stuff of life.” It can be dizzying to think about. I know!
This is when mindfulness comes in. Making a list like this and thinking about all of these things at once is overwhelming. It is not a to do list. It is more of a mind dump. I like to just put those things down and walk away from them for a bit. I know I can always come back. I let my mind wander and think happy thoughts. You can train yourself to do this anytime you start feeling overwhelmed.
What is the most important thing?
I interviewed a man once who kept telling me, “The most important thing I learned was this, and the most important thing that happened was that, and the most important thing about it was….”
I asked him, “Okay. but what IS the most important thing to you? Is there one important thing that truly matters?”
“In the end, just three things matter:
How well we have lived
How well we have loved
How well we have learned to let go”
― Jack Kornfield
If you could boil it down to just one thing that truly matters to you, what would it be?
For me, it’s love. To feel loved, to know that I love with all my heart, that I am able to love. Love makes me smile, it makes my heart sing with joy and fills me with happiness. Every cliche, catch phrase, and song that may be coming in to your mind right now – that is what I am talking about! I love that stuff. I live for it. It makes all the other stuff seem somehow less than. I don’t want to say pointless, or unimportant. Those things on my list have meaning. However, I can go on without them. I cannot live without love.
Growing up Catholic, I have always had a faith belief that God is love. I believe that at the root of hope and faith lies the true feelings of love and one’s belief in it. In his first epistle, John the Evangelist wrote:
“God is love, and those who live in love live in union with God and God lives in union with them. Love is made perfect in us in order that we may have courage on the Judgement day; and we will have it because our life in this world is the same as Christ’s. There is no fear in love; perfect love drives out all fear. So then, love has not been made perfect in anyone who is afraid, because fear has to do with punishment.
We love because God first loved us. If we say we love God, but hate others, we are liars. For we cannot love God, whom we have not seen, if we do not love others, whom we have seen. The commandment that Christ has given us is this: whoever loves God must love others also.” 1 John 4: 16-21
Love gives me courage.
Love is perfect for me.
There is no fear in love.
Perfect love drives out fear.
Being loving means loving all people. (Even myself.)
How does Mindfulness and Self-Care help Me?
According to Psych Central, “Mindfulness is the practice of bringing our awareness to what we are experiencing in the present, both internally and externally, without judgment (Kornfield, 2009). It is a wake-up call to become conscious of the ways we perceive and respond to life’s situations.”
You might ask yourself, “Wouldn’t it be great if we could all go around just feeling happy and loving all the time? Why can’t we? Why are we so messed up and why do we want so much out of life? Why am I afraid? Why do I work so hard?” I know I ask myself these questions!
In her Musings and Affirmations, I am Resourceful and Resilient, Martina McGowan proposes that we can learn and grow from challenging circumstances. We can resolve to use resources that reminds us of our own strengths. She says, “My focus on learning enables me to be enormously resilient. I know that I can make it through any situation that comes my way. After all, I am already a survivor of every circumstance in my life so far and I continue to learn from each of them. So today also, I trust that I am resilient.”
I want to just be who I am and be satisfied with that. But something in me is always wanting more. I have a yearning desire to go out and do more, experience more, and learn more. With that comes opportunity as well as risk. All of this brings up fears and overwhelm. Should I or Shouldn’t I? What is keeping me from following my heart?
I worry a lot. Worry causes stress. Stress manifests itself in my body as tension. Tension builds and becomes pain. I begin to worry about the cause of the pain. Then I get sick with worry… There is a pattern here. I am aware of it. I know I need to handle this as soon as, if not before I recognize the signs. I would love to live a worry-free life. I have come a loooong way! I have taught myself to take a breath, to imagine a happy place, to let go, and to live with intention. Now, I aim to learn more about mindfulness and resilience.
“What is the worst thing that can happen?” This is one of the questions Paige Burkes of Simple Mindfulness suggests we ask ourselves in The Mindful Approach to Facing Your Fears.
It is part of our genetic design, it is human nature, to constantly seek information, try new things, and grow. While we are doing that we can’t forget about self-care. That’s how I handle so much. My list of 15 challenges, honestly is a partial list. It doesn’t even touch on my physical, medical, or emotional issues. I don’t even begin to list my worries about family, friends, grieving, financial, and relationship issues. We all have those. Instead of falling deeper into a hole of self-doubt and worry, I pick myself up and think about my “one thing.” I am always striving to boost my self-confidence and resilience. I am constantly self-nurturing. And, I do not mean just taking time to do some deep breathing and lighting a candle.
In Foster Mind-Body-Spirit Resilience Through Self-Care Marquita Herald examines the life-long practice of self-care:
“Authentic self-care is about becoming aware of what you want and need on the deepest level and then making it a priority to develop and consistently practice the rituals and habits that will nurture your well-being for the long-term, not just to get through the day.”
A self-care regimen:
- Prevents disease and illness.
- Shortens recovery time from illness or injury.
- Enhances your sense of autonomy (control over your life).
- Improves self-esteem and confidence.
- Reduces stress and stress-related anxiety.
- Helps you be more productive, engaged, and connected.
- Makes it easier to manage your weight.
- Helps to build stronger more meaningful relationships.
- Improves both the length and quality of your life.
So, if self-care has the potential to make such a huge positive impact on our lives, why aren’t we doing it? -Marquita Herald, Emotionally Resilient Living
Just Be You
All I want is to just be me and feel comfortable in my own skin. I have learned that I am pretty good at that. I like who I have become. I tried a lot of different things. I am at a point of re-becoming my favorite me. I don’t want to fight it anymore. I want to go to my happy place, my one thing that I know to be true, the root of it all. Simple Joys, my theme for this year says it all – I am mindful of the thing that people like about me. I am loving.
Can it really be that Simple?
“Always fall in love with what you are asked to accept. Take what is given, and make it your way. My aim in life has always been to hold my own with whatever’s going. Not against: with.” ~Robert Frost
“You cannot control what happens to you, but you can control your attitude toward what happens to you, and in that, you will be mastering change, rather than allowing it to master you.” ~Sri Ram
Yes it can! When you question everything, you are setting limits, doubting your gut instincts, going against what you believe to be true. Use mindfulness to combat limiting beliefs.
Choose to listen to the calming voice of reason. Remember to listen for your inner sweetheart! That’s the soft, nice voice telling you, “Yes, it is okay, and you are all right, and this all you need to do right now.” It is possible that the soft voice is your true self speaking at a regular constant volume. Those loud crazy thoughts and ideas could just be noise, distractions, and minutia that brings about the overwhelm.
Be the master of change. You are in charge of you. Changes are going to happen, like it or not. You can change or stay the same and go along with it. Remember what truly matters. Does this make you smile? Does it make your heart sing? Can you live with out it? Does it make you happy? You are the most important. Take care of you!
Just be you.